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8th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2014

Lent is almost upon us… that season of introspection and soul-searching reminiscent of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert (after his baptism).  Our readings for this coming 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time help prepare us for our Lenten Journey by helping us focus on what is truly important…

The Word for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:14-15
Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

We’ve spent the past several weeks listening to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus’ teaching starts with the Beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit), and then proceeds to teach his disciples about the Law – which we know to be the Commandments or the Mosaic Law.  In following this, Jesus teaches, is the key to salvation.  So now with our heads filled with all this “what to do” and “what not to do”, as if sensing our overload, our readings for this week take a decidedly different tone.  In liturgical terms, we call it “Divine Providence” – a reminder that we are God’s chosen and that He loves us.  If I had to put this idea into more contemporary terms, the words of Bobby McFerrin come to mind, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Our first reading is a very short passage from Isaiah.  Here the prophet (2nd Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah) tells us with a beautiful image of a mother and an infant as an example of how God could never abandon us.

This theme is further explored in our Gospel from Matthew, where Jesus reminds us that we shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about taking care of ourselves, but know instead that God will take care of us:  those that serve him.  This teaching, put in very poetic terms, also comes with a warning:  that we cannot serve two masters, God and “mammon” (mammon being an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property).  Jesus is trying to give us practical advice here… that our efforts are misspent if we focus too much on the things of this world and of our own troubles.  Put another way, God wants us to focus outwardly, not inwardly… to the actions of reaching out to others instead of ourselves, and in turn God will make sure we are cared for.

Also in this passage Matthew continues to employ exaggeration as a means of getting to the truth.  Surely we need to make provision for tomorrow, just as squirrels will store nuts for the winter, but Jesus is trying to show us a simpler way of living.  I like to think of this as his call to frugality… that perhaps a leaner lifestyle helps us better focus on what’s important.

We end appropriately with our continued exploration of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.  Here he reminds us that we are called to be servants, and stewards of God’s “mysteries”.  This allows us to explore the differences between ownership and stewardship.  One of the admonitions given to us on Ash Wednesday is “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19).  By taking the long view, our time on this earth is limited.  Paul reminds us that we are just caretakers as Matthew reminds us to focus on what’s really important.  These two messages give us a lot to think about as we approach our 40 days in the desert. 

Catholic Update:
Ash Wednesday:  Our Shifting Understanding of Lent
Finding Our Way Again:  Daily Lenten Reflections

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