SUNDAY REFLECTION: 8TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (26-02-2017)
“I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU…DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR LIFE”
(TRUST IN DIVINE PROVIDENCE)
The popular hymn found in our Catholic Hymn Book (Hymn 253): “My soul is longing for your peace” (based on psalm 131), composed by Lucien Deiss, is a song which reflects on the necessity of placing all our trust in God. The author, having reflected on vicissitudes of life and its corresponding worries, invites her audience to a childlike trust in God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Little wonder, in verse 4 of the hymn we encounter: “As a child rests on his mother’s knee, so I place my soul in your loving care”.
Trust, in this context, allows us to strengthen our relationship with God and to depend on him, realizing that all we’ve acquired comes from Him. When we trust God, we are optimistic not only that He is competent to do what we trust Him to do, but also that He is committed to doing it; and this is the hallmark of the readings for this Sunday.
The Readings invite us to avoid unnecessary worries by putting our trust in the love and providential care of a loving and merciful God, and by living each day’s life as it comes, doing His will and realizing His presence within us, within others and in all events of our lives.
The First Reading, from the prophet Isaiah (Is 49:14-15), contains one of the most touching expressions of God’s love in the bible. Here we encounter the Lord’s rhetorical question: “Can a mother forget her infant?”, after this, the Lord makes His solemn pledge, “Even should she forget, I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU!” This is so touching, coming from God who is all powerful, full of kindness and love. Through prophet Isaiah, God reminds Israel (and us) that even the best of human love is only a shadow of His eternal, life-giving love for us.
Likewise, in the Second Reading (I Cor 4:1-5), St. Paul admonishes the Corinthian community not to worry about who brought them to the Christian faith and not to judge him or other preachers (it is only God who has the right to judge). By so doing, Paul reasserts his Apostolic authority, responding to the worries and criticisms of some members in the Corinthian community. As God’s “servant”, he is charged with important administrative responsibility by the authority of God.
In a nexus, the Gospel Reading according to Matthew (Mt 6:24-34), concretizes what we’ve discussed so far. Jesus invites us to Trust in the Divine providence. He puts it succinctly: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Looking critically at this, does it mean we should just fold our hands and not work to earn our daily bread? Does it jettison planning? Let’s get it right. We have to understand the context of that statement. The section begins with: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘no one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon’”. Our “master” is whatever governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, and controls the desires of our heart and the values we choose to live by. Love of money and possessions, the power of position and prestige, the glamour of wealth and fame, or the driving force of unruly passions and addictions can become our master and rule our lives. God is easily forgotten and pushed into the background. “Mammon,” in today’s Gospel passage, stands for “material wealth or possessions” or whatever tends to “control our appetites and desires.” But man’s ultimate goal and Master is God and not material possessions. We cannot serve both at the same time. Material possessions become a means to reach our ultimate goal, God, if and only if we share them with others; that is only when it could be justified. God is our only Master, and He has the power to set us free from our greed. Hence, Jesus calls for a detachment from material goods and invites us to live a life of simplicity and dependence on God, a God who NEVER forgets his children. That was why he said, “Do not worry about your life…”
Today, Poor people worry that they have no money and rich people worry that they don’t have enough money. Sick people worry about their premature death, and healthy people worry about getting sick. Some people worry about their past blunders, and others worry about their future. Everyone seems to worry about something all the time. Only trust and faith in God can take us beyond the immediacy of worries and an inordinate focus on ourselves. The tragedy of most of our lives is that we worry so much about tomorrow that we never claim the resources God has for our living today. Hence, Jesus gives us some reasons why we should not worry.
Worry is injurious to the health because it causes physical and mental problems and illnesses. One recent study has discovered that almost two out of three persons who present themselves at a hospital emergency room have worry and anxiety issues at the foundation of their complaint. Over 100 diseases have been directly attributed to worry! Worry will not only take away your physical energy, it will also rob the soul of its stamina as well.
Hence, Jesus exhorts us to do our daily tasks serenely and not to worry uselessly about what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow. Here, Jesus is not advocating a shiftless, reckless, thoughtless attitude to life. Rather, He is forbidding a care-worn, worried fear, which takes the joy out of life. However, He wants us to make good use of our human resourcefulness and to plan our lives in a responsible manner. Jesus also teaches that we should strive first for the kingdom of God in our life, for God to rule our life, and then all these things shall be given us. Jesus is not teaching us to be careless, but to center our care in the right place—on the kingdom of God. What is important is to live well today, doing God’s will, realizing His presence with us, within us and within everyone we meet. In this regards, we would be united with the Psalmist of the day who expressed “In God is my soul at rest; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all” (PS 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9)
(Keep thou my feet, O Lord, I do not ask to see the distant scene; one-step enough for me. Amen)