Our readings this week remind us of God’s ever-caring, ever-loving nature. But sometimes we spend so much time worrying about our own lives and the future, we don’t take the time to “stop and smell the roses.” We focus so much attention focusing on our physical and fiscal needs that we end up ignoring our spiritual needs and those other parts of our lives that, in the end, are more important.
Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
first reading is a very short passage from Isaiah. Here the prophet
(2nd Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah) tells about how God could never abandon
us. Here Isaiah, in one of his most poetic visuals, equates God’s love
with that of a of a mother and her infant. We can’t possibly think of a
caring mother forgetting about the child she carried, but, Isaiah
states, even if she were, God could not. Isaiah’s intent is to remind
Israel, currently in Exile in Babylon, that like a loving mother, God
has not forsaken them. Our Psalm complements this passage by reminding
us that we should, “Rest in God alone, my soul.” That our salvation
still lies in the caring embrace of the Lord.
As an interesting
sidebar to our first reading, I should also note how Isaiah had no
problem using a feminine image, that of a mother and child, to explain
the Lord’s love for his people. In fact, Hebrew Scripture has many
similar examples. It should serve as a reminder that while our
Christian tradition has embraced an image of God as “father,” we should
also remember that God’s nature is so far beyond our own that we should
be cautious when it comes to assigning gender to the Almighty.
Gospel from Matthew, continuing our study of the Sermon on the Mount,
complements our first reading by reminding us we shouldn’t spend so much
time worrying about taking care of ourselves, but instead know that God
will take care of us… that is, those that serve him. Jesus uses very
poetic terms, to make his point, but that point 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. That we should instead be focused on reaching out to others,
and in turn God will make sure we are cared for.
It is also
important to note that Matthew continues to employ the use of hyperbole
in this passage in order to make his point and get to the truth. While
it is surely prudent to make provisions for our physical needs, both now
and for the future, neither should we allow ourselves to be consumed by
this. Even the squirrels store nuts for the winter. But here Jesus is
trying to show us a simpler, more fulfilling way of living. I like to
think of this as his call to frugality… that perhaps a leaner lifestyle
will help us better focus on what’s really important.
reading concludes our stud of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.
Here we are reminded that we are called to be servants of Christ and
stewards of the mysteries of God. This should be our primary concern.
Further, Paul advises that no one is in a position to judge. Not him,
not anyone in the Corinthian community, only God can judge, at the
appointed time. He reminds us that God knows our hearts, and it is the
motivation of our hearts on which we will be judged.
Sunday marks the last Sunday before entering the Season of Lent.
Throughout this entire Winter stretch of Ordinary time we’ve been
listening to some of the most profound teachings Jesus provides from his
Sermon on the Mount. In a way, it serves as the perfect launch pad for
Lent. Lent, after all, is a season of penitent reflection. Our 40
days in the desert to consider how well we’re living up to our call to
follow Christ. Our readings, this week and for the past several weeks
have taught us what’s important: Blessed are the poor. Love your
neighbor. You cannot serve both God and mammon. These are some of the
most profound teachings, and we’ve spent time digging into what they
mean. But now with Lent just around the corner, it’s a good time to
reflect back on these teachings and ask ourselves how well we’ve lived
up to these ideals.
We are all too familiar with the tradition of
“giving something up” for Lent. But in our readings for this Sunday
before Lent, we are reminded that we shouldn’t focus on the mammon of
our lives, but instead honestly assess how we are living up to what
Christ taught us. Instead of looking for something to give up for Lent,
I suggest looking for something you can ADD during Lent. Maybe
spending extra time in prayer. Maybe attending daily Mass. Maybe
taking opportunities to reach out to the poor and those in need. Maybe
it’s taking time to clean out your closet or garage. Lent is a time to
assess our own worthiness to enter the Kingdom. Our readings these past
weeks have given us a roadmap…now it’s time to plan how we intend to