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Eighth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 49:14-15; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Mt 6:24-34.
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 49:14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”
I. THEME: Believe in God and ourselves.
There are many things that cause people to worry: future, catastrophes, failure, criticism, maltreatment, death, sickness, jobless, accidents, spoiled children. Some of these can be controlled; many of them are totally outside of people’s ability. If they are in people’s ability, they should prepare for the best as they can. If they are outside of their sphere, leave them in God’s hand. For examples: If they are afraid of failure, they should set a reasonable goal according to their talents and work as hard as possible to achieve it. If parents don’t want to have spoiled children, they should educate them according to God’s way, etc. Keeping worry is useless because it doesn’t do any good for people; sometimes it causes more troubles for them.
Today readings give us the reasons to put our confidence in God and in ourselves. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah advised the Israelites to believe in God’s love because He is the only One who never betrays and forsakes them. In the second reading, St. Paul advised his faithful to put their trust in God and themselves; don’t pay attention to others’ criticism and forget about God’s given mission. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches people to believe in God’s providence by pointing out the unreasonableness of believing only in them, expressing through the worried attitude. He teaches people to put their complete trust in the heavenly Father and to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
1/ Reading I: Don’t worry about God’s love for us because His love is forever.
1.1/ Don’t chase after other gods: Before the exiles, many Israelites forsook God and chased after foreign gods before they no longer valued God’s true love for them. God sent many prophets to warn and to call them back; but they didn’t listen and also maltreated the prophets. Finally, God let them fall into the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ hands; their countries were destroyed and they were brought into exiles. Confronted with shame and sufferings in the foreign lands, they blamed on God as the prophet Isaiah reported, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”
1.2/ God’s love for His people is forever: God is always faithful to His love and promises; He never betrays His people. Why were God let the Israelites fallen into their enemies’ hand? Many prophets gave the reason for it: because God so loved them. If God weren’t, He shall lose them forever. He let it happen for them with a hope that when they face sufferings, they shall recognize their unfaithfulness and return to His true love for them. When they reflect their past, they shall recognize God’s love through His sending of prophets to warn them of their stubbornness before the exiles and to encourage them to put their hope in Him during the exiles.
The prophet Isaiah in today passage likens God’s love with a mother’s love for her suckling child, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” God isn’t happy when He sees His people suffer; He always finds opportunities to take their sufferings away. People must accept this fact: When they run away from God’s love and His commandments, they shall become their enemies’ preys and suffer many sufferings.
2/ Reading II: Don’t worry about people’s judgments; God is the One who judges us.
2.1/ Don’t worry about others’ judgments: Jesus forewarned his disciples, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Mt 10:25). St. Paul certainly experienced this warning because whenever he successfully established a local church, some Jews followed to disturb the church and to calumniate him as: Paul isn’t wise, an apostle, or talking as an eloquent preacher, etc. Paul wasn’t bothered with their judgments; moreover he also used them to clarify his role in spreading the Gospel. He wrote, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they are found trustworthy.”
Paul wants to say that he is only a steward of God’s mysteries; his duty is nothing more than to faithfully preach the Gospel he received from Christ. The faith which his audience might have is the Holy Spirit’s working in them, not by his skillful preaching. Paul was faithful with his preaching mission all the day of his life. He didn’t pay attention to anything other than that; day and night he worked hard to preach the Gospel for people with a hope that they shall accept the truth and believe in Christ.
2.2/ God’s judgment is just: Paul is very confident in God and in himself. He wasn’t worried about others’ judgment or to defend himself, he said, “It is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”
This is the attitude a person should have after he has tried to do the best as he could. When he said this he doesn’t mean he is innocent; what Paul wanted to say is that he cares only about God’s judgment because God is the only One who has the correct judgment and the power to reward or to punish him. All he needs to do are to faithfully fulfill his duty and to leave the rest for God’s love and providence.
Paul gives us two reasons for not judging: First, the time isn’t ripe yet; everyone can change before their time is over. Paul probably referred to the Last Judgment when everything is definitive. Secondly, only God can give the correct judgment because he can see all things that happened inside people’s heart, “He will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” St. Thomas Aquinas also gave some reasons relating to judging:
(1) Judging isn’t for everyone: People have the right to judge only those who are under their authority; for examples: parents, superiors or judges. When people have no responsibility, they should not pass judgment for anyone.
(2) Judging requires one must have all sufficient proofs: Even when people have the right to judge, they must have all the sufficient proofs. When they are in doubt, they must judge in favor of the judged.
3/ Gospel: Don’t worry about tomorrow, but always believe in God’s providence.
3.1/ Don’t worry about our daily needs: Jesus teaches his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
Many people disagree with this teaching because if they don’t worry about these and work hard for them, from where do they find their food and clothing? Jesus doesn’t advise us to be lazy or to wait for food, but wants us to understand God’s providence and our role in His plan of salvation. Three things we need to pay attention to:
(1) The Greek verb “merimnáo” in v. 6:25 can cause confusion. The KJV translated it as “take no thought.” If we understand according to its literal meaning, it means “having no thought” of eating, drinking or clothing. How could a person live without these three things? Jesus doesn’t teach this. The NAS and RSV rendered it as “do not be anxious for.” This translation is better because it expresses the uselessness of worrying about things which are outside of people’s control.
(2) Hard working is God’s punishment for Adam’s first sin: According to the Book of Genesis, working hard is one of punishments which God sentenced on people “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field” (Gen 3:17b-18). People must work to find food on the table. Working also helps people to avoid many spiritual and physical sicknesses.
(3) Everything belong to God: People can work hard and still lacking food to eat and water to drink if God doesn’t give rain upon their land. This happened many times in the Jewish and human history. The author of Psalm 127 understood well of God’s providence, so he wrote, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psa 127:2).
Jesus illustrates two examples of God’s providence for creatures: The first example is the birds of the air, “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” People are higher creatures and have more value than the birds of the air; why are they anxious about things for their life? The second example is the lilies of the field, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?”
If God aren’t willing to give, all peoples’ worries and hard-workings are useless. This is why Jesus challenged his disciples, “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?”
3.2/ Seek first His kingdom and righteousness: Jesus points out the ultimate goal which everyone must strike for in this life, “For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
First of all, we need to look at the whole picture. God let us live in this world for a purpose which is to prepare for the next life where we shall live happily with Him in His kingdom. So, this world is only our temporal home; we need earthly things as means to prepare for our eternal home. We can’t take the means as our ultimate goal.
God’s righteousness is for us to be saved from sins so that we can join Him in the heaven. Since we can’t achieve these by ourselves, we must believe in Christ and live according to his teaching. Some of basic things we must do when we seek God’s kingdom: First, we must spend time and effort to learn God’s truth in the Scripture. Secondly, we must spend time for praying to deepen our relationship with God. Lastly, we must spend time to preach the Gospel for our children and all people so that they also know about God and believe in Him.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must put our complete trust in God’s love, providence and justice. We should never sacrifice these for worldly things.
– We should prepare for our future by using all of God’s given gifts. Always keep in mind the ultimate goal which God prepares for us so that we shall not deeply involve in worldly business and forget about this goal.
– After prepared for and tried our best, we should leave everything in God’s hand, believe in His providential love and not worry about what we can’t control.