26Feb 26 Feb, 2017. 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Isaiah 49:14-16

God loves us just as a woman loves the child of her womb

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.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Apostles have authority as stewards of the mysteries of God

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.

Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34

We are not worry; our deepest needs are supplied by Providence

Jesus said to his disciples: “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.

“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? 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?

“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?

“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.”


No to the idolatrous love of money

[José Antonio Pagola]

While money seems for many to be the absolute measure of value, idolizing it is for Jesus the greatest enemy of the worthwhile, just and united world God wants. It is twenty centuries since the Prophet of Galilee denounced, in no uncertain terms, the worship of money as the major obstacle holding humanity back from a more humane coexistence. The reasoning of Jesus is clear: “You cannot serve God and money.” God cannot reign as the Father of all, if justice is denied to those who are excluded from a life of dignity. Hence people dominated by the passion to accumulate wealth cannot build the humane world God wants, so long as they promote an economy that condemns the weakest to hunger and misery.

The core message of Pope Francis is about righting that deep-rooted wrong. While the media and internet social networks relate the smallest gestures of his admirable personality, his most urgent call about justice is shamefully glossed over. What he says is: “No to an economy of exclusion and iniquity, for that kind of economy kills.” While Francis does not offer any detailed economic analysis to explain his thought, he knows how to summarize his indignation in clear and expressive words that could make headlines in any country..

Here are just a few of the examples he cites: “How is it possible that the death from cold of an old man on the streets does not make news while the fall of two points of the stock market does? This is a shameful exclusion.” “It’s intolerable that food is thrown out while there are people who go hungry. That is criminal and wrong!” – though of course it is not illegal, in our coldly capitalist world. We seem to live “in the dictatorship of a faceless economy without a genuinely human purpose.” As a result, “while the profits of a few grow exponentially, the majority remain increasingly far from the wellbeing of that happy few.”

The cult of personal prosperity and wellbeing can anaesthize us to the needs of others, and we grow impatient if the market offers something we haven’t yet bought, while all too many lives are stunted and cut short for want of resources. As the Pope has said: “this message isn’t Marxism but pure Gospel.” It’s a message that must have a lasting welcome and echo in our Christian communities. Each of us needs to ask ourselves: What am I doing, or what do I plan to do, to help those less fortunate than myself?

Letting tomorrow care for itself

Christ wants to reassure us: Do not worry so much about things, always wondering, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” Remember, your heavenly Father knows you need them all and he will take care of you.” Or as that holy woman, Julian of Norwich used to say, “all manner of things will be well.”

Of course, this would not be a practical principle to apply in business, or government, or the professions; as if one did not have to plan ahead, study the details of a project and use all of one’s insight and energies to bring things to fruition. Like other countries, in Ireland we have learned to our cost that expecting a boom-time to last is a recipe for needing a bailout and the stern monitoring by the International Monetary Fund!

Nobody doubts the need for prudence and for providing for the foreseeable needs of the future. However, just as important for our wellbeing is the kind of basic trust and optimism commended by Jesus. His words offer a radical antidote to being overburdened by caution and afraid of the risks of living. We really do need the sense that Someone up there is looking after me. A lovely image of divine providence is portrayed by Isaiah in the rhetorical question:

Does a woman forget a baby at the breast?
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.

People’s fears are real enough. It seems that we are afraid of something all of the time and of everything some of the time. Many are afraid of failure, afraid of letting others down and of being let down ourselves by others. We may be afraid to love somebody because they might not love us; afraid of losing our jobs, our health, our security, our grip. We are afraid of growing old and of dying. Fear comes in a wide variety of forms, stress, doubt, tension, pressure, anxiety. It manifests itself in ways from a nervous tic to a nervous breakdown. Or as in my case now, a tendency to look over my shoulder at every shadow in the street.

So we all of us have a lesson to learn from the great teacher of wisdom who said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; 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?” A deep faith can put all our normal fears into healthy perspective.

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