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Sunday Readings for Feb. 27, 2011 (8A)
By Fr. Alex McAllister SDS
The Gospel set before us today continues Christ's teaching as given in the Sermon on the Mount. The extract today is all about Divine Providence. In our modern consumerist society it is a teaching that is frequently neglected, even by devout Christians.
Jesus tells us that we ought not to depend on our own resources or even those of the world. He helps us to understand that our faith should be in God alone. He wants us to understand that God will provide for those who depend on him.
This is not an easy teaching to accept. We know that in this world if we want anything we have to work for it. And we regard those who sit back and take the easy road in life as feckless and irresponsible. Indeed we often complain that they are living off the generosity of others.
We work hard and do our very best to improve our material well-being and this is right and fitting. It is also understandable that we want to provide a good life for our children, and we work hard to ensure that they have a better life than we did. But we know that we have to be very careful and not let them grow up expecting material comfort without working for it.
This is not an easy balance for us to achieve. We want to give our children a better life and we also want to hand on the values that we grew up with even though they are living in a completely different kind of society.
When one of my sisters got married I was surprised to discover that she and her fiance had chosen this very Gospel reading for their marriage ceremony. It is certainly not one that is normally read at a wedding, but I soon realised that this was to be a sort of manifesto for their marriage.
Their choice of reading was their way of saying that their marriage was of God and that they realised that material things, like the flowers of the field, were only passing and should not be depended upon.
Jesus is inviting us to place our trust wholly in the Father who created all things. He assures us that he will provide for us even in the most extreme circumstances.
I am sure that each one of us can call to mind difficult situations in life when something unexpected turned up just in the nick of time. Sometimes we just know deep in out hearts that this was not some random accident but the very hand of God protecting us.
I am not counselling anyone to be irresponsible, I am not suggesting that you throw everything away and expect God to come to your rescue. And neither is Jesus. What he is saying is that we should not worry about material possessions or lack of them.
Jesus does not want us to become consumed with material desires or completely tied up in amassing wealth. He is helping us to understand that these are passing things and invites us to place our trust in God.
He is telling us that these preoccupations diminish our stature as human beings.
The essence of all this is that God is not a faraway distant personage with no interest in his creatures. No he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is intimately involved in each moment of our lives, even if he manages to do this in a totally unseen way.
The Christian is a person who understands this closeness of God to us. Remember the words Jesus said to his disciples when he sent them out to preach to all the towns and villages. He said, 'tell them that the Kingdom of God is very near.'
The Kingdom is indeed very near. God is with us, God is always close to us; he is always leading us, guiding us, protecting us.
At the end of the Gospels each time the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples he said, 'Do not be afraid'. Here in this text he tells us 'Do not worry'. It is much the same message. Christ comes to us bearing Good News, very Good News; he wants us to be happy, to be free from fear and anxiety. He wants us above all to place our trust him.
In the Early Church they didn't go in for lengthy creeds. Their profession of faith was simple and it consisted in just three words: Jesus is Lord.
By these three simple words they acknowledged the dominion that Christ has over the whole of creation and declared their utter dependence on him. We should do the same.
In summary, as so often in the Gospels, Jesus is shifting the focus from what we do to why we do it. What he is trying to get us to understand is that the Gospel is all about acquiring the right attitude rather than about whether we should or shouldn't do a particular thing.
The right attitudes of the Christian are to be found in the virtues: faith, hope and charity being the highest of those virtues. If we live our lives aiming to achieve perfection in these things then we might not live our lives smoothly, but we certainly will have lived it well.
The riches Christ wants us to amass are not wealth and status which are earthly and transient. He wants us to amass real and lasting riches, he wants us to amass those things which have eternal value such as patience, kindness, and humility.
If we are to pass anything on to our children it should be these things. Let us hand on to them the right sort of attitudes as their real and lasting inheritance, not money or material things.
Let us hand on to them those things which might not make them comfortable or rich in the eyes of the world, but which will make them good and fulfilled human beings made in Christ's image and destined for eternal life.