GOD NEVER ABANDONS

8th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME Year-A

Gospel: Mt 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 you 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.’
Other Readings: Is 49:14-15; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9


australia_farmers_drought, photo from the BBC World ServiceFor a long
time now, Australian farmers are worried how the drought they are experiencing would affect their lives. And they are entitled to have this feeling of insecurities. We could imagine some of these farmers are even thinking and saying the same thing as Isaiah in the first reading: ‘The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.’

Our gospel reading starts with Jesus teaching that: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first or love the second…” We are familiar with this teaching and we usually take it as a teaching about loyalty or faithfulness. But after saying this, Jesus went on to teach the people around him “not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, or about your body and how you are to clothe it.”

This part of the gospel, I admit, is a bit challenging. Especially around the uncertainty we are all experiencing at this time—with the collapse of the automotive manufacturing industry not only in Victoria but in all Australia; the closure or the threat of closure of many businesses and the prospect of unemployment, it is hard to accept this teaching of Jesus.

We may ask, is Jesus speaking against prudence, foresight and planning because it is completely futile? Would it really be better to live a hand-to-mouth, day-to-day existence than store money away for retirement or emergency purposes? In addition, we can also ask about the connection between the first part of the gospel reading to the second part. 

Yes, we can interpret the first part of the gospel reading as a teaching about loyalty or faithfulness. However when we take the gospel reading as a whole, we can hear that Jesus was also teaching about TRUST and DETACHMENT.

Mt6First, it’s a teaching about trust in God; that out of his love for us, he will not abandon us. Isaiah compared God’s love to a mother’s love “who cannot forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son [or daughter] of her womb.” We know that a mother’s love is the most powerful love—unconditional, lavish and limitless—one can ever experience. And yet, Isaiah said, if we can think of any mother abandoning her child, GOD WILL NOT.

In fact, God already gave us the proof of this unconditional love; this love that never abandons, when in the history of human salvation he constantly offered his people the chance to return to his love; to repent for their sins. And in the end; as an ultimate sign of love, God took off his divinity and became man in order to communicate his mercy and love. Jesus is the ultimate sign of God’s love for us.

Second, the gospel reading today, taken as a whole, is a teaching about detachment. Put another way around, it’s about teaching us not to be overly attached to things. The connection between the first part and the second part of the gospel lies in the truth that the things that we are overly attached with are the things that give us worries.This could lead us to obsession. We become obsessive—that is, we start to exclude other things, we start to exclude other aspect of life and sometimes exclude people, relationships. Hence Jesus said, “You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”

And so we are being encouraged to cut our entanglements with and dependence upon material possession. We are encouraged to exercise “holy detachment” as St Pope John XXIII said. This does not mean we should forget to think and act prudently or to plan for our future or that we don’t need material things to sustain our lives. It is not about being indifferent to the practicalities of life but putting material things in their proper place in our lives.

Properties and possessions. These can all be lost, destroyed and stolen. They do not last forever. On the other hand, God’s love lasts and we can be assured that he will not abandon us just like the farmers in Queensland experienced not too long ago with the coming of the downpour that filled their dams and rivers, and soaked their dry lands.

On this 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, let us pray to God to give us a heart that can experience “holy detachment” on all the things that give us worries and anxieties and a heart that put complete trust on him.