On the Gospel of Matthew 6:24-34
8th Sunday of Ordinary Time‘I am telling you not worry about your life…’ Great! God is picking up the tab so we can all retire early and live the good life! A literal reading of today’s Gospel might give rise to such notions. And with such an esteemed and capable benefactor on our side, is it any wonder? However, many people in our world scrape by on less than nothing and fight very hard for the little they have. Does today’s Gospel have any real significance in practice or is it just the kind of fanciful blind faith that we believers are often denounced for?
In chapters 5 – 7 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is raising the bar. Beginning with the Sermon on the Mount, He challenges us to move beyond the immediate outward requirements of fulfilling the Law. He is contesting the kind of hypocritical, pride–filled, toxic reverence this type of compliance with the Law, regretfully, often harnesses. The new standard to be adhered to is interior. All our thoughts, actions and indeed our whole character are to be subject to the dictates of the heart, to our interiority. It is a call to get our priorities in order by putting things into perspective.
Since we cannot be the slave of both God and money, Jesus is reminding us to choose wisely. The popular hymn advises us to ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’. That is not the end of the story though. It goes on to reassure us that ‘AND all these things shall be given unto you, Alleluia’. Is there not a promise in there somewhere? Similarly, the Psalmist recommends us to:
‘Entrust your cares to the Lord and He will support you’ (Psalm 54:23).
Our faith is not either-or but, rather, it is both-and. We actually can have it all. God cannot be derived or arrived at as a result of a disordered loyalty towards material things; He is not a by-product of any process. We often make our own ‘gods’ out of things that can never be God. On the contrary, by seeking God above all else we can be certain that every other need of ours will be more than catered for. There is a hierarchy of responsibilities here. We cannot experience the kind of relief a doctor’s treatment can offer in times of distress without first finding that doctor.
Therefore the question must be asked ‘where is the source of our healing and ultimately our happiness?’ This is what life is all about at the end of the day – Happiness. Saint Augustine reckons our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Jesus is not giving us a blank cheque here, entitling us to a life free of challenges. He is merely asking for our confidence in His ability to provide for us. To question His ability in this regard is to question Him.
What is it then that He is providing you might ask? Notice He says that our Heavenly Father is concerned with what we NEED, not necessarily what we WANT. God knows we have lots of temporal needs but He is most aware that we need Him. Do we want Him though, the way we want after perishable things? It seems that we ‘men of little faith’ have missed the point. Maybe this is where the inconsistency arises since God never fails to provide Himself to those who seek Him. That same hymn goes on to say ‘knock and the door shall be opened unto you, seek and you shall find, ask and it shall be given unto you, Alleluia.’ But are we looking?
Our needs and our wants are united in God; they are no longer two separate forces pulling in different directions but one. It is in God Himself that we find our happiness, our providence, our salvation. All else flows from this first principle. Unbelievers more than anyone need to cling to this kind of hope – otherwise they would never again have cause for smiling in a world that simply cannot satisfy!!! It is this kind of life giving hope in an adoring Father, in often desperate situations, that Jesus compares with the hopelessness of pagans.
Isn’t it strange that when things are going against us, God is often a soft target for not being there for us but do we ever consider the countless ways we take Him for granted? Each day is made up of an infinite number of miracles whose source is Love. He is most definitely at work if only we would acknowledge Him. In the dictionary “trust” is defined as: confidence in the truth, worth or reliability of a person or thing. How appropriate – confidence in the Truth, or put another way, confidence in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Jesus is presenting a challenge – are we up for it?
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 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 clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
– Matthew 6:24-34