8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, do not worry about tomorrow!
During today’s First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, we heard, “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” [Is. 49:14-15] Here perhaps is the most touching expression of Divine love in the entire Bible. In God’s few words, we learn of His Fatherhood. We have a heavenly Father. Not only is He our Creator, but He also wants to be our Father. While we struggle here on earth, awaiting the day when we will be united with the Heavenly Father, we are told in different words that God is watching over us. He has not forgotten us. If we think that He has forgotten us, it is all in our minds.
The second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 4:1-5] concerns the ministry of the Apostles. We heard the reader say, “Brothers and sisters: “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”
Two important words are found in this passage. They are the words “servants” and “stewards.” In those days, the usage of these words implied an “assistant”, a “helper.” This is the servant who was entrusted with the administration of the house. Paul places emphasis on the inferior position of the “manager” who administers his master’s property, and not his own. The apostles of Christ’s are His assistants and “managers” of God’s mysteries, charged with preaching Divine revelation, and not their own doctrines. The first and indispensable quality demanded of a manager is trustworthiness, a conscientious devotion to his master’s interests.
Today’s Gospel Reading [Mt. 6:24-34] has to do with serving two masters. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Disciples, followers of Christ, cannot have a divided loyalty. In this reading, Jesus reminds the disciples that it is not good to possess wealth and ownership. Material possessions are a false god that demands exclusive loyalty, as God demands it. The claims of material possession must be completely renounced. Jesus proceeds by saying, “Do not worry.” “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
The meaning of the words “Do not worry” as spoken here mean not to be “overly concerned.” Do not be “uneasy about what might happen.” Avoid “anxious care.” It may be worth noting that the word means more than simple thought or planning. Jesus refers to the kind of worry that leads to a divided loyalty and ultimately as an exclusive concentration on possession. He speaks of the basic need of food and clothing – the person is more important and deserves more attention than the external goods that sustain him.
If one places his trust in Divine Providence, he has no worries. But if he does not trust in God to provide for his future, then he begins to stockpile anything and everything which he believes will benefit him in the future. Such is a false sense of security. It is not the spiritual way to do things. Jesus continued, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” The example of the birds is proposed as the proper attitude that we should have towards food. This does not excuse one from earning his food; few men, work as hard for their living as the average sparrow. The audience to which these sayings were addressed was largely composed of peasants and laborers. And Jesus says nothing here or elsewhere that invites them to abandon their life of incessant grinding toil. It is not laziness that He is recommending. What He is recommending is that one’s anxiety should not exceed the labor that is required to secure subsistence. It is not the use of the necessities of life that is discouraged, but the accumulation of goods. Accumulation of goods does not prolong the life of the owner as much as a cubit (18-20 inches). Continuing with the words of Jesus, “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? “
To teach the proper attitude that one should have towards clothing, Jesus alludes to the wild flowers, which bloom in profusion on Palestinian hills. These hills are a dull brown color most of the year. The example illustrates the observation of nature and the details of daily life that are typical of the Gospels. Yet this display of bright color, which is indeed an impressive sight, lasts only for a few weeks. This condemnation of one’s accumulation of clothing can be compared to those who today, they have a large collection of shoes, dresses, suits, hats, coats, etc…
Why does one need so much?
Changing the subject, Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “what will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” This verse emphasizes more clearly the principle that the disciples should not be accumulating goods. If savings becomes “accumulation,” it is still subject to the words of Jesus in the previous passages. “Sufficient for the day” are the key words to remember.
Today, Jesus reminds us who follow Him that we are more important than flowers, than the grass, than swallows. His promise to us is that He will take care of us even more than He does of the plants and birds. This teaching of Jesus reminds us that we are called to a distinct way of life, not a worldly way but a spiritual way. We are called to trust in God who knows what we need and to believe that God will give it to us. Blessed is he who places his trust in the Lord Jesus!
This week my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray for each other, that we may receive the gift of faith that is necessary to trust in Divine Providence so we may not worry about tomorrow.
Fr. A. Francis HGN