The theme of today’s set of sayings from the Sermon on the Mount is what is the nature of basic trust? It all depends on how one perceives God.

In Jesus’ teaching God is our loving Father. There are several responses possible to this teaching of Jesus. We can go the whole hog and accept it as Jesus does. I will comment on the nature of this basic trust toward the end of this homily. On the other hand we can half accept it and half fail to accept it. If we do that we are what Matthew frequently calls “a person of little faith.” The Greek word for this ‘oligopisti’ will frequently recur in the gospel readings over the next several weeks. At the other extreme we have the fake- holy ones. Just as in fake news they are like actors who live out a sham. As we say in English they are ‘hypocrites.’ They pretend to recognise God as their father.

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We are forced to face our own insecurities. If we do not live in the trust of God we will tend to become slaves to the wealth we amass to ensure our security. In this gospel we are told twice, “Do not worry,” or better expressed, “Do not be preoccupied.”

Special attention is given to maintaining our sustenance in the form of food and clothing. The wry comment is added that worry cannot add even a centimetre to our height. Anxiety and worry are the negative characteristics which in the end make us also people of little faith. God knows what we need for life and provides for us. Our task is to seek to bring about God’s kingdom.

Truly God our Father is the perfect parent upon whom we should model our own efforts

This reading sends a special message for all those who suffer from anxiety and the many psychological disorders which lead to depression. If we are to banish the black dog we must develop a relationship to God based on a liberating absence of worry.

It may be helpful to turn to developmental psychology for a moment. The US therapist Erik Erikson describes an eight stage description of ego development. The first stage Basic Trust covers birth until about twelve months. This stage grows from the gratification of needs such as: warmth, clothing, food and love. It those needs are not provide for the result is the opposite: mistrust.

How does this meme of psychological insight correlate with the gospel passage referred to previously? Truly God our Father is the perfect parent upon whom we should model our own efforts. If trust is something we struggle with, there are opportunities to rework those issues which trouble us at later stages of development.

Let our prayer become: “In God, we trust.”

Fr Brian Kelty