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Features \ Asia - Liturgical Reflections

8th Sunday – February 26, 2017

Consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air... - EPA

Consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air... - EPA

21/02/2017 10:21

Is 49: 14-15; I Cor 4: 1-5; Mt 6: 24-34

One day the German mystic Johann Tauler met a beggar. "God give you a good day, my friend," he said. The beggar answered, "I thank God I never had a bad one." Then Tauler said, "God give you a happy life, my friend." "I thank God," said the beggar, "I am never unhappy." Tauler then said in amazement, "What do you mean?" "Well," said the beggar, "when it is fine, I thank God. When it rains, I thank God. When I have plenty I thank God. When I am hungry I thank God. And since God's will is my will, and whatever pleases Him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?" Tauler looked at the man in astonishment, "Who are you?" he asked. "I am a king," said the beggar. "Where, then, is your kingdom?" asked Tauler. The beggar replied quietly, "In my heart."

Introduction: Today’s readings give us an invitation to avoid unnecessary worries by putting our trust in the love and providence of a merciful God, and then living each day’s life as it comes, doing His will and realizing His presence within us and others.

First reading: Today’s first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, begins with the Lord God’s rhetorical question “Can a mother forget her infant?” and His solemn pledge, “Even should she forget, I will never forget you!” This is one of the most touching expressions of God’s love in the Bible. Through the prophet, God assures Israel of His unfailing love when the people of Israel cry out in despair, believing that they have been forgotten by God. The Prophet Hosea also speaks about a loving God Who holds Israel to his cheek and teaches Ephraim to walk (Hosea 11: 3-4).  Isaiah reminds Israel that even the best of human love is only a shadow of God’s eternal, life-giving love for His people. Today’s responsorial psalm also invites us to hope and rest in the strength and providence of a loving God.

Second reading: Responding to criticisms by at least some of the Corinthians, Paul explicitly defends himself and reasserts his Apostolic authority. As God’s “servant” he is charged with important administrative responsibility by the authority of God. He also warns the Corinthians not to worry about who brought them to the Christian faith and not to judge him or other preachers. It is only God who has the right to judge.

Exegesis: Impossibility of serving two opposing masters:  Our “master” is whatever governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, and controls the desires of our heart and the values we choose to live by. Love of money and possessions, the power of position and prestige, the glamour of wealth and fame, or the driving force of unruly passions and addictions can become our master and rule our lives.  God is easily forgotten and pushed into the background. “Mammon,” in today’s Gospel passage, stands for “material wealth or possessions” or whatever tends to “control our appetites and desires.” But man’s ultimate goal and Master is God and not material possessions. We cannot serve both at the same time. Material possessions become a means to reach our ultimate goal, God, only when we share them with others.  God is our only Master, and only He has the power to set us free from our greed. The search for holiness or righteousness should be our primary purpose in life.  Hence, Jesus calls for a detachment from material goods and invites us to live a life of simplicity and dependence on God.

Jesus’ arguments against unnecessary worries: Poor people worry that they have no money and rich people worry that they don’t have enough money. Sick people worry about their premature death, and healthy people worry about getting sick. Some people worry about their past blunders, and others worry about their future. Everyone one, it seems, worries about something all the time. The tragedy of most of our lives is that we worry so much about tomorrow that we never claim the resources God has for our living today. Hence, Jesus gives us some reasons why we should not worry.  1) Worry is a pagan or an irreligious attitude of those who don’t believe in a loving and providing God. 2) In nature, other creatures, like birds, work hard for their daily food, but they don’t worry about tomorrows. 3) Worry is useless because we cannot increase even an inch of height by days of worrying. 4) Worry is injurious to the health because it causes physical and mental problems and illnesses. 4) Worry robs us of faith and confidence in God’s help, and it saps our energy for doing good. 5) Worry takes all the joy from life and wears out our mind and body. Doctors agree that emotional stress can bring actual changes in the organs, glands, and tissues of the body. It’s not so much "what I’m eating" as "what’s eating me" that’s getting me down. Hence, Jesus exhorts us to do our daily tasks serenely and not to worry uselessly about what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow. Here, Jesus is not advocating a shiftless, reckless, thoughtless attitude to life. Rather, He is forbidding a care-worn, worried fear, which takes the joy out of life. But He wants us to make good use of our human resourcefulness and to plan our lives in a responsible manner. Jesus also teaches that we should strive first for the kingdom of God in our life, for God to rule our life, and then all these things shall be given us. What is important is to live well today, doing God’s will, realizing His presence with us, within us and within every one we meet. 

Life messages: 1) We need to avoid worry: 1) By trusting in the providence of a loving God. 2) By acquiring the art of living one day at a time in God’s presence without worrying over the dead past, living present or unknown future. 3) By seeking God’s kingdom which means doing His will every day and living a righteous life obeying God’s laws. Let us try to answer the following and find antidotes for our worries:  "Why are you anxious ...?" (1) What good will it do? (2) What does it say about our priorities?  (3) Why are we in such a hurry to deal with tomorrow when we haven't even dealt with today yet? And (5) Do we really have trusting faith in a caring and providing God?

2) We need to live one day at a time: Here are the three simple steps. First, we start the day with God. We set aside for prayer at least fifteen minutes early in the day, and begin by repeating Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Then we thank God for the day and dedicate it to His glory, ask for a 24-hour full-activation of the Holy Spirit so that He may provide the resources we don’t have for living victoriously that day. Secondly, we touch base with God periodically throughout the day. This could take the form of what saints call “red-light prayers,” little prayers that we can whisper with eyes wide open, perhaps when we’re about to talk with a customer or just before boarding a plane or when we have a tough decision to make. This is what St. Paul meant when he advised us to “pray continually” (I Thess. 5:17). It is amazing what peace this God-consciousness can bring. In the third step, we  end each day with God. Before we go to sleep, we say, “Thank you, Lord, for walking through this day with me. Thanks for helping me at critical points. I have wounded my soul today by my sins. Please pardon me. With your grace I shall be more faithful tomorrow. Now, I ask for a restful night of sleep, and if you see fit to give me another day tomorrow, I will receive it gladly. I love you, Lord. Amen”

The late Bishop Ernest Fitzgerald used to tell about a man he knew years ago who lived in one of the isolated corners of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Life was hard, and every day his little hillside farm was at the mercy of drought, wind, or cold. Yet he was about the most serene and deeply contented man Bishop Fitzgerald had ever known. So he asked the old mountaineer one day if he had ever had any troubles and if he had ever spent sleepless nights. "Sure, I've had my troubles," he said, "but no sleepless nights. When I go to bed I say, 'Lord, You have to sit up all night anyway. There's no point in both of us losing sleep. You look after things tonight and when tomorrow comes, I'll do the best I can to help you.'" 

Source: Homilies of Fr. Anthony Kadavil

21/02/2017 10:21