It’s fitting that this Gospel begins with the admonition reminding us that we cannot serve two masters (God and money) and then delves into Jesus’s teaching on worry...
because money is often at the top of our worry list. We worry about how to get money if we don’t have enough, and we worry about how to keep it when we do have it.
Jesus reminds us that God knows we need food, clothing, and shelter, all of which require money in our culture. However, he tells us that we shouldn’t focus our attention on any of these things because if God takes care of the birds and the flowers, how much more will he care for us.
The reality is that when our anxiety is high, our trust in God is low. Likewise, when our trust in God is high, our anxiety levels decrease. As the psalmist says, “Only in God is my soul at rest.” Those who do not know God are perpetually anxious and are never able to find lasting peace. As Christians, we are called to a radical trust in a heavenly Father who will take care of us in all our needs. The question is: How will we respond to the temptation to worry —like a nonbeliever, or as a faithful disciple of Christ?
God will never forget you (Isaiah 49:14-15)
The readings for this Sunday concern what St. Paul calls in the Second Reading “the motives of our hearts.” In that regard, this first text from Isaiah reminds us of the foundation that our hearts require to be fully “at rest," as it says in the Responsorial Psalm. We must be confident in the exquisite care that God has for us. Many of us feel as Zion does in this reading. When we look around us, whether at the challenges that we face in our walk of faith or at the troubles which plague the wider world, we can feel that “the Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” When we momentarily forget the promises that Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel, we, likewise, feel forgotten by God.
That is why the work of remembrance is so critical. (Recall that Jesus says that we are to celebrate Mass in remembrance of him.) If we fail to remember him and who he is, the God who cares for us more than the very best of loving mothers, then we tend to feel forgotten by him in our difficulties. When we remember him and who he is, the God who died for us on the Cross, we immediately recognize in faith that he is present with us in the very midst of those difficulties and working with a divine ingenuity to draw out a greater good from them than we could ever imagine. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, he only permits evil because he “mysteriously knows how to derive good from it” (CCC 311).
Make no judgments; the Lord will judge (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).
In this Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us that many of the wonderful things that God provides us, even in the midst of difficult situations and complex human relationships, come to us through “stewards,” those who have been charged with giving to God’s people “their portion of food at the proper time” (Luke 12:42, RSV: 2CE). These stewards—and here we could think of our deacons, priests and bishops—are to be concerned with whether they are acting in a trustworthy way toward this commission they have received from the Lord. After all, as Psalm 104:27 reminds us, he is the real source of the goods the stewards dispense: “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season." (RSV: 2CE).
But Paul also reminds us that we ought not to judge the hearts of those stewards whom God has placed in authority over us. “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.” This is to be our attitude toward those in authority over us in the Church, even those whom we suspect of violating the trust they have received, because it is the attitude we are to assume toward all. Christians are not to judge the hearts of others, even when we can see plainly that their acts deserve, and may even require us to deliver, a public condemnation.
God feeds the bird and clothes the flowers. Do not be anxious; God knows all your needs (Matthew 6:24-34).
In this famous passage from the heart of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, a passage which has moved so many saints to surrender everything in confidence to God, we are schooled on that quality that Jesus calls in the Beatitudes purity of heart. In the chapter just preceding this one, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8, RSV: 2CE). Here Jesus tells us that to be pure, our hearts cannot be divided; we can't have two primary loves. God and his kingdom must have a place of absolute priority over everything else. He is the “pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:46), the “treasure buried in a field" (Matthew 13:44), that we are asked to surrender all else to attain.
But recalling who God is—absolutely trustworthy, the One who will always give us “food in due season,” the one who loves us more than even a mother loves her child—we recognize that this great gamble of giving all to him is no gamble at all. To prove this we need only look at the birds and the flowers. Every one of his creatures is cared for in God's providential ordering of nature; still more can we as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father be absolutely confident of his care and concern for us. So, if we give all for him, he will give us far more in return—in fact, his very self, which is all!
Our anxiety is high when our trust in God is low. Do you find that to be true in your own life? How can you increase your trust in God when you are feeling worried or anxious?
Bring to mind something that concerns you or that you are worried about right now. Allow yourself to feel any anxiety or fear that might arise. Now imagine that you are with crowds on the Mount as Jesus is teaching. He comes toward you and speaks the words of today’s Gospel directly to you: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life ... can you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? How do these words challenge you? How do they comfort and encourage you? What might you say to Jesus in response?
This week, consider at least two ways in which you might use the words of Jesus about not worrying to bring a sense of peace and calm to your life.
Lent Begins Wednesday
Take time today in quiet prayer to listen to what God is calling you to do this Lent.
DIGGING DEEPER: The Lilies of the Field
The lilies of the field Jesus referred to are not the same as the lilies we know, which do not grow in Israel. Several candidates have been suggested, including bright scarlet poppies, which bloom after a spring rain. One type of rare lily, the Madonna Lily, does grow in some high valleys. Consisting of groupings of white blossoms with a sweet heavy scent, they bloom during the month of May.