Saturday, November 9, 2013

Homily - 8th Ordinary Sunday (Year A)

8th Ordinary Sunday (Year A)

First Reading: Isaiah 49:14-15          Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5          Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:24-34


Emperor Frederick the Great (1712-86) of Germany, once visited a town school in Branderburg. When he entered into a classroom, the teacher was giving a geography lesson to the children. The emperor called on one of the boys and asked if he knew where his town was located.
“In Prussia,” the child replied.
“And where is Prussia?” continued the emperor.
“In Germany.”
“And Germany?”
“In Europe.”
“And Europe?”
“In the world.”
“And the world?”
The boy thought for a moment, but at last looking right at the emperor, replied:
“The world is in the hands of God.”
This is an answer from a child; but how true it is – 'The world is in the hands of God.' It means that we all are in God’s hands and are totally dependent upon him. That is to say that we are under God’s loving providence and that he greatly loves us, takes care of us and protects us; He is always with us and never abandons us.

Today is the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Word of God continues to strengthen us in our Christian discipleship. "Trusting in God's loving providence" is a fitting key to understanding today's Scripture Readings and to reflect upon. In the First Reading the Prophet Isaiah, presents the feeling of the Israelite people who are in exile that God has forgotten them. But God assures them of a love beyond their imagination. His love for His people is far beyond the love of a mother for her child. In the Gospel Reading from St Matthew, Jesus reminds us that we are God’s precious children. With tender and enduring love, our heavenly Father really cares for us. He provides for all our needs. Indeed, God deserves to be loved. He is worthy of our faith and trust. Finally, in the Second Reading St. Paul teaches the Corinthians to put their trust not so much in human judgments, and not even in their own judgment, but in the Lord’s judgment.

In the First Reading of today, prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel, who are in exile and are crying out in despair that God has forsaken them, that God loves them tremendously, always cares for them and never forgets them – “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Here perhaps is the most touching expression of Divine love in the entire Bible. We see God under the tender image of a mother, and the people of God under the image of a nursing infant. How could a mother not be compassionate to her child who is hungry. God is like that, Isaiah says. He also makes it clear that God’s love is ever greater than the image presented. His love surpasses that of a mother for her child. God has always been faithful to His chosen people; He would never forget them, nor forsake them. Isaiah’s message is that we are to trust God even when the days are darkest, for God does not abandon His people.

The Gospel Reading of today from St. Matthew begins with a strong statement of Jesus and he puts it very bluntly, “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.” Disciples, followers of Christ, cannot have a divided loyalty. They require undivided faith commitment. Jesus in his sermon stresses that a person cannot serve both God and money. By saying this, Jesus is not criticizing the possessing of material things. What is in question is the person's attitude towards them, how he values them, having his life controlled by them and, above all, being unable to share them with those in real need. Also in question is the false illusion that, if we have money and power, we have the control of our lives. We are secure. So ultimately Jesus is teaching us that our only real security is total trust in God and His love for us. Money primarily is a means of exchange by which we can provide for the needs of our life at any given point of time. The problem begins when money and the pursuit of money becomes an end in itself. Jesus is asking his disciples to reflect on what are our most basic values in our lives. We have to make a choice between the God’s vision of life and a preoccupation with money and material possessions. They are not compatible. They involve conflicting goals in life and different visions of what is most important in life. A truly materialistic person may be a practicing Christian, but he cannot be a really committed Christian.
Again, in today's Gospel passage, Jesus speaks to his disciples about God’s loving providence and exhorts them not to worry about food and clothing - what to eat, what to drink and what to wear! He points to Nature, which lives always in the present , and it never shows any anxiety about the future. He tells them how God the Father so lovingly feeds the birds of the sky and so beautifully clothes the grass of the field, which are so insignificant, then how much more He cares for them, who are created in His own image and are far more important to Him than the birds of the sky and the grass of the field, the things of lower order.
Actually, what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples is that they should never be slaves of the material things and become a worldly and a worrying people; but rather they should always put their trust in God’s loving providence and seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It is all a matter of priorities. God has to come first. We get rid of worry by trusting that God will help us make everything turn out right. We find time for God in our lives first. We learn to relax, to meditate. And once we have God as a priority and trust that He will help us through any difficulties we may have, then we go and take care of the other factors in our lives, knowing that God will help us. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

In the Second Reading of today from his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes himself and other apostles as the servants and the stewards of the mysteries of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The stewards of the saving Gospel need to be 'trustworthy' to God, as it is required of a steward. That is to say, what is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of God's trust. At the same time St. Paul cautions them not to be judgmental towards others, for God alone is the supreme judge of all, as all are in His hands and that His judgment is always true and praiseworthy. The apostles of the Gospel are to rely on the grace of God in all their endeavors. Moreover, in their limpid witnessing of the Gospel, they must mirror the integrity and trustworthiness of God, fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who will come again on the last day. The Lord Jesus will then expose the deep motives of our hearts and grant us the praise and reward we deserve.

In conclusion, the Gospel Reading of today deals with Christian discipleship and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It 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 the loving providence of God who knows what we need and to believe that He will give it to us. “Blessed is he who places his trust in the loving providence of God.”
God is always faithful to His people and to His promises. Even when we turn away from Him and place our trust in ourselves or in other persons or in money or material goods, He will not abandon us but will remain faithful. He loves each one of us as if there is only one of us. He always cares for each one of us. But a relationship of love can only be founded upon trust, upon fidelity. But the strange thing about man is that he finds it easier to trust sinful human beings than to trust God, who cannot betray us. God calls us to rest in Him: “Rest in God alone, my soul,” the Responsorial Psalm says today. God created us for Himself. He did not create us for ourselves; He did not create us for the pleasures of this world. He created us to be united to Him forever in perfect rest, to behold Him face to face in the Beatific Vision.
Again Jesus says, “Do not worry.” It is useless for one to work so hard from early morning until late night, anxiously working for food to eat and clothes to wear, for God gives rest to His loved ones. When we are worrying we are not trusting in the providence of God. And what is providence of God? It is the belief that God is in control of the universe. And specifically as Christians, it means we believe there are no accidents in our lives. Nothing touches us that has not passed through His hands. What then it requires of us today, is to leave all the matters in God’s hands. We are a worrying people; we are a weak people; we are people with fears; we are people with limitations; we all often fall and falter in our struggle and meet with disappointments. We need God to overcome all these. Without him we can do nothing and with him we can do anything. Even if in the worst situation we may be in, he can bring us out of it.
Let us then today all come forward, put ourselves in God’s hands and trust in his loving and care-taking providence. Let us bring all our worries & concerns, difficulties & problems, pains & sufferings, weaknesses & failures to God and offer them to him. It is he, who knows our minds & hearts, our needs & necessities – he will never disappoint us and will always do what is the best for each one of us. “Blessed is he who places his trust in the loving providence of God.” And this is the Good news of today.

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