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Eighth Sunday of the Year (26th February 2017)

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.

‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?” It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’


Kevin Lyon, Archdeacon of Glendalough.In these difficult times when jobs are scarce and homes with overdue mortgages are being repossessed, Jesus’ advice in today's Gospel about not worrying may seem insensitive. Jesus does not deny that there are basic human needs that must be met if one is to enjoy some sort of serenity. Rather he has invited believers to adjust their priorities. Would God be the one who guides and blesses our life or will it be money/mammon that receives our trust? If we choose God we also choose to rely on divine providence whose wisdom is reflected where birds and flowers mirror the care of their Maker.

On the other hand if money, the acquisition of this world’s goods for their own sake is one's first priority - then there are many worries incurred by such a choice. Choosing God and trusting in that choice is not a once in a lifetime decision. It is a daily process of evaluating and ordering one's priorities - so graphically illustrated in the lives of the Cistercian monks in that movie ‘Of Gods and Men’.

By seeking first God's Kingdom we do not adopt an unrealistic view of God and money - rather we become freer to assess their usefulness in relation to other more serious matters - such as the ecological plight of the Universe and the many needs of the poor and the marginalized. This passage (Matt. 6: 24-34) assures the poor that they are more valuable to God than birds and flowers. Just as God cares for these, so does he care for the poor. But if God’s care is too practical, the followers of Jesus are the ones who must ease the constraints of the poor by acknowledging and attending to their needs.

Many of those who first heard these teachings of Jesus over 2,000 years ago had only recently left everything in order to follow him. Perhaps they were worried over the strain they had placed on their families. Even Jesus’ own relations thought that he was ‘out of his mind’. Jesus nevertheless challenged his own both then and now, to look beyond their very real worries and believe in his promise of God’s care. They had learned each day to live as if it were their last and to set aside yesterday's regrets to deal with tomorrow's troubles, only when tomorrow becomes today.

Isaiah, in the first reading, sends a message to his contemporaries in Babylonia who had begun to think of themselves as abandoned by God. The Prophet sends them a reminder of the merciful largesse of their God who forgives and forgets and who, like a mother, loves and cherishes her child. See God says, ‘upon the palms of my hands I have written your name’ (Isa. 49: 14, 15,16).

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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