26 February 2017: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 49:14-15 Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 1 Cor 4:1-5 Mt 6:24-34

Discipleship: trust, worry, and dependence on God

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings ask us to consider God’s continuous care for us.

In the first reading Isaiah provides consolation for those returning from exile–God has not forgotten them or forsaken them. For today’s hearers this reading emphasizes God’s care for God’s people. The gospel echoes that God never forgets anyone.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This week Paul tells the Corinthians how to evaluate their teachers. The apostolic leaders (Apollos, Paul, Kephas) are Christ’s assistants, not philosophers with hidden knowledge. Apostolic leaders are measured by their faithfulness to the gospel message, not by their speaking ability or authority.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today’s reading picks up with the “Material possessions vs human relationships” section, and has two parts:

  • Parable of serving two masters. A slave can obey, honor, or be loyal to (“love”) only one master at a time; as a result he ignores (“hates”) his other masters. Jesus’ parable warns about priorities: a disciple’s loyalty and service is to God first, and everything else (mammon) second. Mammon represents anything that competes with God, including money, possessions, and even self. The Aramaic root of mammon means “trust” or “the person or thing in which one places trust.” This saying about mammon/trust leads logically to Jesus’ teaching about a disciple’s dependence on God.
  • Dependence on God. The Greek word μεριμνάω (meh-rim-NAH-oh), meaning “to worry about,” appears six times in ten verses (Mt 6:25-34). Jesus knows the reality of human needs (food and clothing), but he forbids disciples from making human needs an object of anxiousness–that is, when a disciple becomes a slave to such worries. Jesus contrasts the actions and attitudes of gentiles and disciples. Gentiles crave (and become slaves to) human needs because they trust only in mammon. Disciples seek God’s kingdom and its righteousness because they trust God already knows what they need and will provide “all these things.” Jesus is not saying that a disciple shouldn’t plan; Jesus is condemning worry and planning that ignores God’s providence, or that chases after security that makes faith unnecessary.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to recognize that humans are wired to worry. Worrying becomes a problem when we put more trust in human solutions than in God’s care for us. We should take comfort in knowing that the Father cares for us and always provides what we need. Such trust in the Father brings us peace and joy, freeing us from worry and fear. What is the source of our worry? Who owns our exclusive trust?

—Terence Sherlock

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