The first reading from Isaiah 49:14-15, only two short verses and yet express both a cry of lament and words of comfort that numerous songs have been composed about it. In the midst of chaos and desolation, almost similar to the on-going civil war in present-day Syria and Ukraine, the whole nation feels abandoned and forsaken. Time and again, I’m astonished by the courage of a priest in cassock seen and heard in news report holding a cross hearing confession risking his life in the line of scrimmage. God never forget his love. Towards the end, an amazing comparison is portrayed, the intimate bond between God and his people is shown in the love of a Mother to her child. It says that even if a Mother forgets the child of her flesh, highly unlikely but possible, I will never forget you.
Matthew 6:24-34 is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount specifically addressed to the disciples which as in the previous verses takes on the matter of true discipleship. Its purpose is not to discourage them from doing nothing at all, resign from work, get sluggish, unproductive, passive, lazy and sloppy, constantly anxious about anything taking the joy and juice out of life, sit down and watch TV and wait for subsidy but invite them to devote all their energies and abilities in the proclamation of the Reign of God. As in the second reading, Paul describes the community as “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1) sent to proclaim the Gospel. They are asked to put their confidence entirely to God, set their priorities straight and not spend their lives in useless anxieties not leaving room for fun as the pagans do, running it as if God, the supernatural, the extraordinary, the supreme being beyond the physical world, didn’t exist.
The Gospel opens up with an admonition “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 both God and mammon” (Mt. 6: 24). The word ‘mammon’ comes from an Aramaic word, transliterated as, ‘that in which one places trust’. It can mean many things but simply translated as money, possessions, wealth- down to the small things we hold so dear that almost identify and define us from cellphone, car, house, career/profession, membership in 700 club that can be an obstacle, a substitute, a replacement, an attachment to something which if left unchecked, will posses us, own us, even eat us alive and will eventually keep us from placing our trust in God. He moves on to illustrate in a lengthy discourse what ‘mammon’ promises to offer and that is, provide us with life’s basic necessities: food and drink, clothing, even more, a shelter that doesn’t simply have a roof over your head but a place you can call home giving you security and comfort.
“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 you not 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” (Mt. 6:25-29).
If God cared for them, how much more will he provide for you. To live according to nature is to go back to the first principle, that is, acknowledge the greatness and providence of God. Look at the beauty of creation: the birds in the sky, the lilies, the ephemeral flowers and the grass of the field, the saguaro, the palo verde, the mesquite, the pine trees, the roses are red in the front lawn although there’s a designated person assigned for its maintenance, God makes it grow and sustains it. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Mt. 6:30). Life is more than nourishment and clothing. Live and follow nature. If there’s any trouble, go back to the first principle that is, acknowledge the greatness and providence of God. As delightful and lovely as this passage is, it takes a toll on those who have trouble making both ends meet. By way of comparison, birds in the sky don’t get arrested for driving under the influence of some spirits, the lilies no deadening skyrocketing credit card bills to pay-mortgage, insurance, utilities, school tuition and the grass of the field no mouths to feed.
I can safely assume that 90% of us in the church will have a meal fixed, a drink that will keep us hydrated, a refreshing water or soda if not something else in the fridge and a shelter/place we can rest our head at night. But even if, we still worry about our lives, job security, health, economy, finances, retirement, education, family, relationships, the uncertainty of the future, our reputation (what people think about us). We worry about our faith making sure we are always in right relationship with God and the church. Sometimes going over the top, we are anxious about the over-all food consumption: the amount of calorie and the added sugar in the food labels for legitimate health reasons, weight, looks, figures, plans for the future, our problems and decisions that dominate our thoughts, even at Mass and prayer…
We worry about the political unrest across the globe, the rapidly growing number trapped in poverty – the plight of the poor- a staggering 1 billion folks not being able to provide for life’s basic necessities who live on less than US$2 a day, dwell in slums and spend the night in cardboard sheets in shanties that will take a phenomenal move to end the complex cycle of the great social divide. On another hand, if I may switch just a bit, we tend to be excessively concerned about useless things. More often than not, we spend our time and energy on something beyond our control that adds up to our headaches and stress resulting in an unhealthy life.
“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” (Mt. 6:31-32).
With all the drama surrounding a text often misunderstood, regardless where you are in the economic scale, it’s music to the ears as Jesus once again gives us an assurance that all will be well…no se preocupen…todo esta bien…only if we re-orient, re- tune and re-align our basic need and understanding of life -God first and get rid of useless anxieties that take out the joy and grin in our lovely faces…And if we do this, if we place all our trust in God’s plan, an act we call faith, all the rest will fall into place.
“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 the day is its own evil” (Mt. 6:33-34). Amen.