Homily for Mass – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: Saturday 6pm & Sunday 9:00am)

1/2 March 2014

(Readings: Is 49:14-15;  Ps 61;  1 Cor 4:1-5;  Mt 6:24-34)

Today’s readings are in invitation to trust in the providence of God.  We could say that to trust in divine providence is trust in the right things.  Because it’s clearly possibly that we might put our faith and trust in lesser things, in things other than God.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to God’s people in exile in Babylon.  God’s people weren’t necessarily always languishing in exile.  In fact, it is suggested that they had become quite settled in Babylon: achieving freedom, well-being, work, family and friends (1)  When God sends the prophets to His people to remind them of the Promised Land, and of His desire that they should “return home” to Jerusalem, they wonder why they should.  And in doing so they admit a false belief that they had come to accept: they felt justified in staying in exile because they believed that God had forgotten them, and abandoned them.”

How easily we too can have a similar idea.  We might not literally be “in exile,” but we might have a sense that our life is not really where it should be.  And even though we might feel a desire to do something to change our situation, we might settle for the relative comfort of the inferior.  Perhaps we say to ourselves, “who am I?”  “The Lord wouldn’t care enough about me.”  “I should just stick with what I’ve got.”  If we truly believed and trusted in the fact that God will never forget us, that his maternal love is unfailing, then we might be more confident to step into the unknown future.  We must trust in God’s true promises;  not false assumptions we come to believe.

In the second reading Saint Paul touches on another area where we can trust in the wrong thing: and that’s what other people think about us.  It is said that Saint Paul lacked the eloquence of some of his co-workers.  He didn’t make a show of rhetoric and fancy philosophies.  And for this reason he might have been judged harshly by his hearers, as not quite measuring up.  Even a saint will have critics, and so we have to learn to deal with other people’s opinions, both good and bad, in a way that is constructive.  Just as someone might put too much store in other people’s negative opinions, its just as much a problem to be doing things simply to win people’s favour.  We are on a slippery path if we put our trust in other people’s opinions of us.  Only one opinion matters: God’s.  St Paul says it beautifully: “Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. … The Lord is my judge.”

In the Gospel, Our Lord deals directly with trusting in what truly matters.  He urges us not to be anxious about things like food, drink, clothing.  He cautions even about being anxious about tomorrow – each day has enough trouble of its own – why worry about tomorrow?  Our happiness does not consist in accumulating wealth, or in having the latest fashions or the newest technology.  So many of these things are fleeting, and in an instant they could be wiped away.  But what endures is love: the love God, and that love as it is mediated between us.  It’s God’s kingdom that will endure forever, not a worldly kingdom.  And so our happiness is proportional to the extent that our values are aligned with the values of God’s Kingdom, rather than a worldly kingdom.

A few years ago, Pope Benedict reflected on how we can get caught up in looking for happiness in all the wrong places.  He said, “But let us also think of those people, especially the young, who have lost their sense of true joy and seek it in vain where it is impossible to find it:  in the exasperated race to self-affirmation and success, in false amusements, in consumerism, in moments of drunkenness, in the artificial paradise of drugs and every form of alienation” (2)  The danger is that we can so easily put our trust in things that really won’t bring us happiness.  Someone once described life to me as a gradual letting go of all the things we hang on to.  And as all those things are gradually either taken away from us, or as we let go of them, our hands are then free to grasp the hands of God that were always held out for us to take hold of.

For it is in God alone that our souls will be at rest;  He alone is our rock, our stronghold, our fortress.  In God alone do we stand firm.

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(1)   Sacerdos: http://www.sacerdos.org/english/articulos/articulo.phtml?se=358&ca=905&te=662&id=14190.  Accessed 1 March 2014.

(2)   Benedict XVI, Angelus, Third Sunday of Advent, 2006.