February 26th 2017. EIGHTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
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GOSPEL Matthew 6:24-34
esus said to his disciples: 'No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.
'That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, "What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?" It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
Kieran’s summary . . . Who is my real master, the Lord or worldly things? If I am anxious about worldly success, the admiration of others, my economic and physical wellbeing, then how can I claim that the Christian God is my God? The readings this week tell us that the Lord will never forget us. Why should I be anxious about things that have no lasting value when the Lord has dedicated himself utterly to my eternal wellbeing? Our culture lauds individualism. Each human being is expected to be the measure of his own existence and the master of his destiny. But if the meaningfulness and value of my life depends on me, then my situation is indeed desperate! We must entrust ourselves totally to the Lord, but this entrustment is not reckless abandon that disparages everything. Our entrustment must also include obedience. The justice that is implicit in the Kingdom of God is the justice that comes when one is in right relationship with God. Entrustment to the Lord and conformity to his will go hand in hand. We have a choice: turn to worldly consolations and lose God; or, turn to God and lose our worldly consolations. The joys and consolations that come from entrustment to God are far greater than the worldly pleasures that we idolize.
This is a Gospel about anxiety. I am anxious for my material wellbeing. The solution to this anxiety is to focus on the fact that God remembers all of my needs. I don’t need to worry about them
The first reading provides a good introduction for the Gospel on Sunday. The Prophet Isaiah is speaking about God’s ability to remember. The Lord says to Isaiah, “Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.” This notion of the Lord’s tender care for us appears dramatically in the celebrated Gospel of Matthew 6. Jesus says, “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not worth much more than they are? . . . And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these.” We often hear these words, but do we truly listen to what is being said? The introduction to the Gospel says, “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of material riches.” But how can we attain the freedom to live with complete trust in the Lord’s providence and overcome our anxieties about material things? Behind much of our attachment to material things is anxiety and preoccupation. In fact this Gospel is aimed directly against the fretfulness and anxiety we experience about our material wellbeing. And this is where the theme of God’s memory becomes relevant! The Lord remembers me! The Lord will not abandon me! The birds of the air don’t sow anything but the Lord doesn’t forget them! How much more will he remember me!
Our culture exalts autonomy and individualism. But if I am really the measure of my own existence, if I am really responsible for the quality of my life, then my situation is indeed desperate!
This Gospel brings us face to face with a characteristic that is responsible for some of the worst behaviour of human beings. That characteristic is the human tendency of seeking to be the master of one’s own destiny; the effort to try to become the autonomous focal point of one’s own existence. By now the notion of absolute individualism as a “good” has seeped into Western consciousness. The autonomous man, the autonomous woman, the absolute individual who is able to provide for himself and who is the measure of his own existence. But this model leads to existential loneliness, because none of us is an independent island – we need other people. The principal problem with individualism is that it makes the human being the principal source of what is needed for a meaningful life. According to this individualism, what keeps me alive, what maintains my existence, what brings me “salvation”, what invests my life with meaning, is solely that which I can provide with my own limited capacities. It is dependent on how well I apply myself. But if everything is dependent on what I know and what I can provide, then my situation is indeed desperate!
We urgently need to entrust ourselves to the Lord. This entrustment is not reckless abandon. It involves obedience and right relationship with God
If I do not entrust myself to God, then what kind of life can I hope to have? If the Lord forgets me, then who will remember the things that I truly need? We are desperately in need of these acts of entrustment to the Lord, and as well as that, acts of obedience to the Lord. Obedience is important because this act of entrusting oneself to the providence of God is not the reckless attitude of not caring what happens to me tomorrow. It is the business of acting in a way that ushers in the Kingdom of God. So there is a twin movement in this attitude of entrustment to the Lord. First of all I cease to make my material needs absolute and instead I consign my material fate to the hands of God. Secondly, I seek to act with the justice of the Kingdom. The just man in Scripture is not simply someone who observes the law. The just man is the one who is in right relationship with God. This is the justice of the Kingdom that I must seek.
What kind of Christian am I? A true Christian with the Lord as his master? Or do I have another master?
We put an enormous amount of effort into procuring our own wellbeing. We worry about how others will judge our appearance and the way we are dressed. We seek hundreds of little satisfactions and surround ourselves with objects that give us comfort and contentment. But there is something else that deserves our effort and attention! There is another master to be served and that master alone deserves our unswerving fidelity. But instead we find that multitudes of so-called Christians live in complete anxiety about material things. They are like taut violin strings, on edge over dozens of things. And still they say that the Christian God is their God. If their credit card ceases to function they become agitated. When their economic income is slightly reduced, they are willing to begin a march on parliament. They are willing to live in lifelong disharmony with their brothers and sisters when they disagree about the inheritance. It is acceptable to lose a brother or an uncle for material disputes of this kind. But what they risk losing is God himself.
We have a choice: turn to God and lose our worldly consolations; or turn to worldly consolations and lose God. The joys and consolations that come from entrustment to God are far greater than the worldly pleasures that we idolize
When we live a life of this sort, preoccupied by our material wellbeing, we lose a sense of what really brings genuine flavour and joy to life. When we entrust ourselves to God, we experience the extraordinary consolations that are part and parcel of the Kingdom of Heaven and its justice. These things alone deserve our anxious effort! We shouldn’t fear that we will lose our material pleasures if we turn to God; we should fear the possibility of losing God if we continue to worship material things! This is the risk of clinging to worldly things. We wallow in them and our lives become encrusted with material objects and attitudes. Such things of no lasting value prevent us from becoming free children of God.