Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Do not worry

The Gospel teaching of Jesus today presents an extraordinary vision of life: “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”. How can we reconcile this with all the insurance policies we have to take out: home and contents, car, compulsory third party, medical, and so on. How can we live like this when we must make provision for our old age – our regular superannuation payments. We all worry about our future, and take steps to ensure that we will be able to manage.

What the Lord is proposing seems so far away from the realities of life as it is lived today. We all know that we must be prudent and responsible about our future.

The conclusion of the teaching gives us some clue as to what the Lord was wanting to convey in this lofty and poetic passage. He said, “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well”.
The Lord knew well the conditions of the people to whom he was talking. He saw into their hearts. He knew that they were burdened with anxiety about providing for their needs – food, clothing, shelter. These natural concerns were so consuming them that they had let their lives become a daily drudgery. They carried all these concerns by themselves. They had lost sight of the providence of God. They did not know that they have a heavenly Father. It was the attitude of someone who has no faith. As he said, “it is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things”.

A person of faith is one whose first focus is on God. Faith is a dynamic relationship with God – not just a creedal belief in his existence. As Christians the nature of God has been revealed to us as one who is a loving father. As the Lord said today, “Your heavenly Father knows you need them all”. Our Heavenly Father watches over each one of us. Our Heavenly Father is concerned about our welfare.

Jesus says this with the great conviction he has because he intimately knows the Father. He knows the depth of love in the heart of the Father. Through this teaching he seeks to convey this to his listeners, and to us. We can be so slow to believe this. We so readily fall back in reliance on ourselves alone. We carry our burdens without looking to the One who can help us.
We hear often “God loves us”, the Gospel teaching today urges us to consider whether we have truly believed this and have learnt to place our trust in the God who truly loves us.

Jesus says today – place your worries before your heavenly Father, entrust your cares to him. Don’t carry all your anxieties yourself; they will weigh down your spirit.

Jesus said very rightly, “can any of you by all your worrying add a single cubit to his span of life?” What does our worry ultimately achieve?

Today at Mass let us respond to this Gospel teaching.

Let us firstly take a moment to reflect: What are the principle anxieties in your life? Take a moment to name them. Now offer them to the Lord.

Let us pray from the depths of our heart. I offer this prayer as a guide: “Lord God, you are our heavenly Father, you love each of us beyond our imagining. Today, inspired by the teaching of your Son, we turn to you and open our hearts to you. We hand over to your care our deepest anxieties and worries. (now mention them) We entrust them to you and in doing so we entrust ourselves to you”.

There is one more thing we need to do in response to the Gospel today and that is we need to take up the invitation of the Lord to set our hearts on the Kingdom of God.

This is something we can do at this moment. God is truly present among us in this church. He is so close, so accessible. Let us reach out to him from our hearts. Let us give expression to the deep desire of our hearts to be in a real union with Him. Let us sense the yearning of our spirit. Let us sense that we want him to be the very wellspring of our life.

Let us sit in silence, perhaps with eyes closed and open our hearts to the Lord.

Again, I will lead a prayer: “Father, my heart yearns for you. I am like a dry weary land without you. I long for your love. I desire to be united with you. Receive me and draw me to yourself. Amen.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 1 March 2014