VIII Sunday of Ordinary Time (Yr A)
Isaiah 49:14-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
Dont worry, be happy!
This is the theme of the eighth Sunday which many at time is not celebrated because it mostly appears as the first Sunday of Lent. This time is ouside Lent.
The gospel is challenging us who keep on worrying for nothing. I remember in the year 2000, when manty parts of the world was affected by draught, I attended a burial of a granny who had died of hunger. During the prayers of the faithful, there was this old man who prayed and said, “God, give us rain so that we may not die of hunger. But God, if you don’t give us rain and we die, it is you to be ashamed since we did not create ourselves but you created us.” Pany people could not respond as usual with “Lord Graciously hear us” since were amidst laughing. By that time, the sky was clear and hot, but truly I tell you, hardly had we concluded the burial rite before a heavy storm descended on us.
This shows how faithful God is to those who are faithful to Him only as one true master. Many people put their trust in worldly things like money, properties, firends, etc but our help is in tyhe name of the Lord. Wealth is not intrinsically evil, but the evil come in our altitude to wealth. Thus, wealth can lead one to pride. Many people get false illusions that, if we have money and power, we have control of our lives. We are secure. Nothing could be further from the truth. So ultimately Jesus is teaching us that our only real security is total trust in God’s love for us.
Money primarily is a means of exchange by which we can provide for the needs of our life, whatever those needs are at any given time. The problem begins when money and the pursuit of money becomes an end in itself, “I want to be rich.” Which soon becomes “I have to be rich”. And, when I am rich, when I have lots of things, I will go to any length to hold on to them. It is amazing how very rich people keep being driven to make more till they have more than they could possible spend.
There was the case of a dollar billionaire in an Asian country who went to jail for insider trading on the stock exchange in order to make even more than he already had. And, after he came out of jail, he was worth more than twice than when he went in. When a very rich man died, someone asked how much he had left. “Every red cent,” was the answer. “You can’t take it with you,” as the cliche‚ goes.
The greatest question is, what will we carry to our graves? And, in a way, that is what Jesus is asking us to consider. When we come to the end of our lives what do we want to bring with us and what do we want to leave behind? Would you want to die alone and desperately lonely and unlamented like billionaires Getty and Howard Hughes or be like a Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi who just kept giving themselves to others and were mourned by millions?
Jesus is asking us today to reflect on what are our most basic values in life. This bring su tyo conflicting goals. We have to make a choice between the God’s vision of life and a preoccupation with money and possessions. These are incompatible. They involve conflicting goals in life and different visions of what is most important in life. The truly materialistic person may have a veneer of Christian practice but cannot be a really committed Christian.
By definition, to be rich is to have more, a lot more than others. To continue to live this way when in the same society there are many poor, that is, people who do not have enough cannot be equated with a following of the Christian Way. Jesus preaches what my dad Munyaka will call lackadaisical attitude towards material things. Obviously some material things like food, clothing and shelter are necessary. At different times other things will be necessary too, such as basic medical care. Education and security etc. The attitude of ‘lackadaisical’ in this sense is not that one does not care; on the contrary, one cares very much. But one cares to have things and to use things only in so far as they are needed to love and serve God and others for his sake. This involves a very high level of inner freedom — the ability to say ‘Yes’ only to what I need.
All we need is to trust in divine providence. Jesus is urging us tio ghave greater trust and confidence in God’s care for us. This is the same God who is answering Isaiah and Israel who were feeling abandoned and forgotten by God in their time of trial. The response comes in one of the tenderest passages in the whole of the Bible: “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.” Thus, Jesus uses nature to pass his message and help his listeners increase their trust in God.
The Nature lives always in the present. It never shows any anxiety about the future. Yet it is covered with a staggering beauty. Solomon in all his glory cannot match the lilies of the field. But, if God lavishes such beauty on things which quickly wither away, how much care will he not lavish on his own children?
Jesus urges us to liberate ourselves from worry and anxiety about our body and material things such as food and clothing. To be concerned about food because right now I am very hungry and do not have anything to eat is very different from worrying whether I will have food next month; to be anxious about what is happening when I am in intensive care is very different from wondering how long my health will hold up in the coming years; to be fretting because I have no money to pay my rent with the landlord knocking at the door is very different from wondering whether I will ever be rich. Worry and anxiety about the future are a waste of time and energy yet we indulge in them so much. They are a waste of time and energy because they are about things which do not exist and very possibly may never exist. As Fr Tony de Mello used to say, quoting a Buddhist axiom: “Why worry? If you don’t worry, you die; if you do worry, you die. So, why worry?” So we are invited to look at the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. They do nothing except be themselves and God takes care of them. And how beautiful they are! When their time comes they pass away. We are often so busy regretting the past or worrying about the future that we never get to enjoy life in the here and now.
Above all, we must remember we are God’s stewards. There is so much responsibility that has been put to us. The poor and the suffering people are around us for us to administer to them from waht God has blessed us with. We are entrusted in buildingthe mystical Body of Christ by speading the gospel of love. “What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of [God’s] trust.” In other words, we are not being trustworthy stewards if, like the man in the parable, we take the gift that God has given us and bury it in the ground for fear it should be lost. No. If large sums of money or goods come our way, we are not to store them away. Our gifts are to used here and now and every day. We should simply be too busy doing God’s work to have time to worry about the non-existent future. As the saying goes, “Let go and let God”.
We are invited to be fully alive. As Fr. Tony de Mello says, “Be yourself. Be here. Be now.” Enjoyment and happiness are only in the present. Nowhere else. If we keep looking forward or looking back we will never find happiness. It is right here in our grasp at every moment of every day. Again as Fr Tony used to say, “You have everything you need right now to be happy.”
Do we believe that? How our lives would be transformed if only we could really believe it! Jesus puts the same thing today in different words, “Do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.” God is only to be found in the here and now; he is always available.
Our Mother mary was hearing many things about her Son Jesus, but she did not worry though she kept them in her heart. May we pray through her that we may have have a shock absorbers in our hearts to absolve the trials of this world.
St. Theresa of Lisieux used to pass through many trials but she never retaliated or returned a lack of charity with the same, Therese would pray for those who had hurt her. But she didn’t just say an Our Father or Hail Mary for them (not that there’s anything wrong with that), she made a special request on their behalf, asking God to reward anyone who had hurt her or caused her grief because they had given her a chance to suffer. She considered suffering to be a great gift which she always offered for souls. When I remember the story of thsi girl of Lisieux that I love very much, I feel broken into pieces. Asking God to bless someone because they hurt me? Impossible! Where is the justice? There is no possible way I’m going to ask God to bless my ex-spouse for what he’s done! is precisely what my thoughts are. But, a seed was planted in my heart and after some time of reflecting on what St. Therese did, I am realizing precisely what true love is… shocking! True love is keeping on keeeping on amidst trials. True love kills the offender with kindness and that is what wins souls for Christ.
May we emulate thsi Little Flower of Jesus that was plucked at a tender age of 24 and now plucking for us flowers from the heavenly garden. Why should we get worried knowing that she will send us red roses? Let us learn her littel way of thanksging in all seasons. It is in this Little Way, that we can find everything we need in the midst of our suffering.
St. Theresa of the Chikld Jesus and the Holy Face, pray for us.
AMDG (ad maiorem dei gloriam)