| Problems? | Register
8th Sunday – Year A (March 2nd) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 12:53

•    Isaiah 9:14-15
•    Psalm 62:2-3, 6-9
•    1 Corinthians 4:1-5
•    Matthew 6:24-34

Do you ever get the feeling that God has utterly abandoned you and forgotten about you? Join the club. That is something that happens to us all from time to time. In the first reading for next Sunday, Isaiah is quite explicit about it. Or rather Israel, for “Zion is saying: ‘The Lord has abandoned me, has forgotten about me’.” In response to these petulant exiles, the poet-prophet asks, in a beautiful image, “can a woman forget her infant?”, and drives the message home, putting on the Lord’s lips the profound affirmation,  “even if she could forget, I shall not forget”.

The psalmist puts this slightly differently: “in God alone” is the theme of next Sunday’s psalm, a slogan that comes four times (although, irritatingly, the translations do not always manage to notice this): “in God alone my soul rests”; “God alone is my rock and my salvation” (this comes twice, in case we should miss the point); “in God alone be at rest, my soul”; and there are an additional three references to God. That refocusing on God might be what we need the next time we feel that God has gone away and forgotten us.

In the second reading for next Sunday, Paul is trying to persuade the Corinthians to refocus; they have become sadly divided, on the basis of whether they preferred Paul or Apollos. Against this divisive tendency Paul has to explain that Apollos and Paul are “servants of Christ, stewards of God’s mysteries”, so to turn them into leaders of parties within the Church is to miss the point. Their only task (and our only task) is to be “faithful”. So Paul is, as always, keeping his eyes on God and on Jesus, not on his critics in the Corinthian church. And what is the Lord going to do? “He will shed light on the things that are hidden in darkness, and reveal the intentions of human hearts”. Then “each one will get praise from God”. Even when things are dark, we have to keep watching out for the Lord.

In the gospel, still in the Sermon on the Mount that we have been following for some weeks now, we are once more reminded that our attention must be on God alone. “No one can be a slave of two lords”; that will have been an obvious fact in the society that Jesus and Matthew knew, but it is something we easily forget. For our “lord” is whatever we put at the centre of our life; and if we think that we can have both God and something else (you must fill in the blank here: in your case, is it money, power, pleasure, or reputation that tries to lord it over you? It will almost certainly be one of those), then we are fooling ourselves: “you cannot be a slave of both God and Mammon”. In that last word, we can hear Jesus’ own words: for “Mammon” is the Aramaic word for “wealth”, and it has a way of exercising dominion over us, unless we are vigilant. Then we are given some examples of the ways in which we might opt for an alternative god: “don’t worry about what you’re going to eat or drink, or wear.” Now comes the comic idea that the “birds of the air” might “sow or reap or gather into barns”; that is followed by two other little jokes: “can you add even ten centimetres to your height by worrying?” and “the lilies of the field don’t go out to work, nor do they go in for knitting – and yet their clothing is lovelier than that of Solomon in all his glory!”. The point is that our God is the real one, the one whom Jesus calls, again and again, just at this point in the Sermon, “your Heavenly Father”. Once you realise that this is an apt way of describing the Maker of the Universe, then it becomes obvious that God cannot possibly forget us, and there is nothing at all to worry about. So what are you going to do this week, you who are feeling that God has deserted you? It is easy: “First, look out for the Kingdom, and its righteousness; then all these things will be given to you on top. So don’t worry about tomorrow: tomorrow is going to worry about itself.” Let us take comfort in this thought, this week.