Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
Refrain: Rest in God alone, my soul.
1) Only 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. (Refrain:)
2) Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed. (Refrain:)
3) With God is my safety and my glory, he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him. (Refrain:)
Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.
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. “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? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
This passage from the gospel of Matthew is taken from what is considered to be the third portion of the Sermon on the Mount in which “Jesus proposes assorted elements of righteousness that should distinguish his followers from the scribes and the Pharisees. The apparent jumble of topics in this section is actually orchestrated well around the first-century Mediterranean understanding of a human being as composed of three integrated, symbolic zones: heart/eyes (loving/hating two masters), mouth/ears (food and drink) and hands/feet (making clothes). When all three zones operate in coordination, the human person is righteous or well” (1) and when they don’t, the person is not.
[from The Cultural World of Jesus, Year A by John Pilch (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN)]
- Perhaps you have seen the commercial on television sponsored by Traveler’s Insurance which features a dog and a bone while in the background there is a song playing called Trouble by Ray LaMontagne (You can see it on Youtube.) The lyrics are "Trouble been doggin' my soul since the day I was born. Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone." In the commercial, the dog tries to hide his favorite bone in what he considers a safe place. First, he tries several places in the house (a laundry basket, under a carpet, on his master’s chair) without successfully alleviating his fears. Then he tries burying it in the yard outside the house, but his worries won’t go away. So he takes a bus to the bank and puts it in a safe deposit box. My favorite scene in the commercial is when he is back home that night tossing and turning in this bed thinking about it. So finally he runs to the bank and brings it home. The final scene shows it back in his dish covered by a red umbrella, the Traveler’s Insurance logo. Seems like an apt summary of this gospel passage which we just heard.
There are many directions that a homilist could take in addressing this passage. In fact, one commentator that I consulted devotes more than fifteen pages to it! I would like to focus on the place of material possessions in our lives and the possible results of having those possessions. Consider that “at the basis of Jesus' teaching about possessions there are three principles.
“1) First of all, all things belong to God. In Jesus' teaching it is the master who gives his servants the talents (Matt.25:15) and the owner who gives the husbandmen the vineyard (Matt.21:33). This principle has far-reaching consequences. We can buy and sell things; we can to some extent alter and rearrange things; but we cannot create things. The ultimate ownership of all things belongs to God. There is nothing in this world of which a someone can say, "This is mine". Of all things we can only say, "This belongs to God, and God has given me the use of it."
“There is a story of a city child who was taken for a day in the country. For the first time in her life she saw a drift of bluebells. She turned to her teacher and said, `Do you think God would mind, if I picked one of his flowers?' That is the correct attitude to life and all things in the world.
“2) The second basic principle is that people are always more important than things. If possessions have to be acquired, if money has to be amassed, if wealth has to be accumulated at the expense of treating people as things, then all such riches are wrong. Whenever and wherever that principle is forgotten, or neglected, or defied, far-reaching disaster is certain to follow.” (1)
- March 25th, 2016 was the 105th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. It was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from any industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants and young women between the ages of 16 and 23, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits to keep them from leaving early or stealing. Fire truck ladders only reached the sixth floor. The fire eventually led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers. (2)
In a famous line from the movie Wall Street, the actor Michael Douglas says “Greed is good”. Well, based on this gospel text, and as certainly evidenced by this tragedy, amassing one’s wealth on the backs of the poor and indigent is not an example to be followed by anyone, let alone by anyone who calls themselves a Christian, that is, a follower of Christ.
3) This leads us to the third and last principle that Christ has taught us about material possessions, which is that “wealth is always a subordinate good. The Bible does not say that, ‘Money is the root of all evil,’ it says that ‘The love of money is the root of all evils’. In other words, the possession of wealth, money and material things is not, in and of itself, a sin, but it is a grave responsibility. If someone owns many material things, it is not so much a matter for congratulation as it is a matter for prayer, that they may use them as God would have them do.” (1)
All of this discussion leads us to consider the result of having material possessions, especially an abundance of possessions. Ten of the eleven verses in this passage today have to do with worry and how we should deal with it. “In these ten verses Jesus sets out seven different arguments and defenses against worry.
(i) He begins by pointing out (Matt.6:25) that God gave us life, and, if he gave us life, surely we can trust him for the lesser things.
(ii) Jesus goes on to speak about the birds (Matt.6:26). There is no worry in their lives, no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseen and unforeseeable future; and yet their lives go on.
(iii) In Matt.6:27, Jesus goes on to prove that worry is in any event useless because there is nothing we can do to alter the course of our lives or extend it beyond the time that God graciously gives us.
(iv) Jesus speaks about the flowers (Matt.6:28-30), and he speaks about them as one who loved them. The lilies of the field were the scarlet poppies and anemones. They bloomed for only one day on the hillsides of Palestine; and yet in their brief life they were clothed with a beauty which surpassed the beauty of the robes of kings. When they died they were used for nothing more than for burning. The point is this. If God gives such beauty to a short-lived flower, how much more will he care for us? Surely the generosity which is so lavish to the flower of a day will not be forgetful of human beings, the crown of creation.
(v) Jesus advances a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like (Matt.6:32). Worry is essentially distrust of God. Such a distrust may be understandable in a heathen who believes in a jealous, capricious, unpredictable god; but it is beyond comprehension in one who has learned to call God by the name of Father. The Christian cannot worry because they believe in the love of God.
(vi) Jesus goes on to say that there are two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. It was Jesus’ conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.
(vii) Lastly, Jesus says that worry can be defeated when we acquire the art of living one day at a time (Matt.6:34). The Jews had a saying: "Do not worry over tomorrow's evils, for you know not what today will bring forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive, and you will have worried for a world which will not be yours." If each day is lived as it comes, if each task is done as it appears, then the sum of all the days is bound to be good. It is Jesus' advice that we should handle the demands of each day as it comes, without worrying about the unknown future and the things which may never happen.” (1) Perhaps a modern day story would summarize all this better than I could. The author writes:
- I used to live in perpetual fear of losing things I had, or never having the things I hoped to acquire. What if I lose my hair? What if I never get a big house? What if I become overweight, out of shape or unattractive? What if I lose my job? What if I am disabled and cannot play ball with my child? What if I get old and frail and have nothing to offer those around me? But life teaches those who listen, and now I know: If I lose my hair, I will be the best bald guy I can be, and I will be grateful that my head can still stimulate ideas, if not follicles. A house does not make a person happy. The unhappy heart will not find contentment in a bigger house. The heart that is merry, however, will make any home a happy one. If I spend more time developing my emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions, rather than focusing solely on my physical self, I will be more beautiful with each passing day. If I cannot work for wages, I will work for the Lord—and his benefits package is unmatched. If I am physically unable to teach my child to throw a curve ball, I will have more time to teach him to handle the curves thrown by life, and this shall serve him better. And if aging robs my strength, mental alertness and physical stamina, I will offer those around me the strength of my convictions, the depth of my love and the spiritual stamina of a soul that has been carefully shaped by the hard edges of a long life. No matter what losses or broken dreams may lie in my destiny, I will meet each challenge with dignity and resolve. For God has given me many gifts, and for each one that I may lose, I will find ten more that I never would have cultivated were the course of my life to always run smoothly. And so, when I can no longer dance, I will sing joyfully; when I haven't the strength to sing, I will whistle with contentment; when my breath is shallow and weak, I will listen intently and shout love with my heart; and when the bright light approaches, I will pray silently until I cannot pray. Then it will be time for me to go to the Lord. And what then should I fear? (3)
The dog in that commercial I mentioned in the beginning of this homily found peace having his bone insured by Traveler’s Insurance. I don’t think we can do better than to place our lives in the hands of the Lord of all that is and trust in his benevolent care.
1. From the Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Used with permission.
2. From Wikipedia.
3) What Should I Fear? by David Weatherford. From Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Heather McNamara (1999, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, FL)
Lord Jesus, you call us to trust in your everlasting love for us. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you call us out of darkness into the light of love. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us to place our faith in you. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Our Lord has called us to place all of our trust in God. Confident that Christ will intercede for us as only a brother can, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is “Lord, hear our prayer”.
That the leaders of the Church will proclaim the love of God with humility and understanding, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will provide for the welfare of all those entrusted to their care, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will come to know the healing presence of Christ in their lives, we pray to the Lord.
That our community will demonstrate our love for others through our caring concern for all those in need, we pray to the Lord.
That all those affected by natural disasters will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives, we pray to the Lord.
That all persecuted Christians will be strong in their faith and an example to non-believers, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, your Son has called us to place all of our cares in your hands. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to always trust in your everlasting providence. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.