Feb 25, 2017

8th Sunday: In God we trust




"Learn from the way the wildflowers grow"


At the time the United States decided to mark its money with the slogan “In God we trust,” we may have wisely stated that though money is essential, trust in God is more essential as a value we hold dear.  Our ultimate trust is in God and not in money so it remains a silent reminder to all Americans that we, at least in words, have not forgotten from where we find our true protection.

Yet, with all the emphasis on the economy, jobs, the rise and fall of the stock market, business deals and fair trade, one may wonder where our final trust really lies. Obviously, we all need money but it can do strange things to our minds and values if we overemphasize the power we give to it. And it isn't only money as much as it is where our treasure, our source of fulfillment and meaning, really lies. While we all enjoy the "stuff" of life, it can never fulfill our deepest spiritual needs.  Everything is limited and the relentless pursuit of the newest and coolest leads us only to pursue more of the same in a never ending search to satisfy. So the Gospel passage this Sunday is indeed fundamental.

In the Gospel, Jesus begins with a warning to all: “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” aka money. The two Masters of our lives cause us to make a choice between the two.   Yet, this Sunday seems a nice rest after the last two Sunday's which heard some strong and harsh images relating to Jesus' moral teaching.  All is taken from the "Sermon on the Mount," Matthew, Chapter 5 - 7.

We began with the well-known 8 Beatitudes in which we heard gentle and reassuring comfort spoken by our Lord:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . the merciful . . . peacemakers . . . the single hearted . . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  We might rest peacefully in this promise from Jesus to the lowly and humble.

Then, the sermon turned more focused on the dangers of sin, the importance of the marriage covenant and the dangers of infidelity and a wandering spirit of lust and adultery.  Jesus warned us about the "consuming fire" and recommended that if our hand or eye causes us to sin we should "cut it off" and the terrible "fire of Gehenna."  While gentleness and kindness are essentially a part of Gospel morality, so is the reality of sin: infidelity, among other wandering attractions.

Then the clincher about love for our enemies, and to "pray for your persecutors;" we must go two miles rather than only one, and reconcile rather than seek revenge. Jesus sets a high bar for his disciples, yet we are the "salt of the earth and the light of the world."  We are privileged to bring this good news to the world around us and to stand as witnesses to the truth.  No wimps or doormats here.

This Sunday again swings to the more comfortable yet equal challenge of being different than the world around us.  We must trust completely in God's providence, even when it seems he is silent or invisible.  To begin with a reflection on the power of materialism is to remind us that we have a free will which God will not interfere with, that that will allows us the privilege to choose God and all things good, or to give ourselves over to a lesser power. But, in the end, it is about trust – in God. 

In a simple and near poetic way, Jesus refers to the beauty of nature; what he observed around him as he stood by the Sea of Galilee: "birds in the sky," those who "do not sew or reap," "gather into barns," "the wild flowers," those who "work or spin." In other words, the life his audience was most familiar with and was engaged in themselves.  He frames this all with a reassurance: "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear." 

Facing the truth that we are all worried about something, at least to the point of guarding against loss in a wise and prudent manner, such as saving money and buying ahead lest we be without in the future, our Lord’s challenge is a framework for peace in our lives.  Jesus seems to tell us, God will provide.  Will he pay my Visa bill?  Will he buy groceries for the family, what about my mortgage or health insurance?

God will provide, has already provided, resources for our use but not exploitation.  He has given us his Word, his Son; his assurance that even when things seem to fall short, it is then we should go to him for “our daily bread.”  Will he see that I win the lottery?  Probably not!

Will he provide a deeper faith and a more firm trust?  If we ask for that grace, he will but in time. 

In the end, it is indeed that “in God we trust,” for there is no other firm reassurance we can find from any thing.  Isaiah offers us a tender image that reassures us of God’s providence: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child in her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

Our share in the holy Eucharist is God’s promise that he will remain with us – in God we trust.

Grant us, O Lord, we pray, 
that the course of our world
may be directed by your peaceful rule
and that your church may rejoice
untroubled in her devotion. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 

(Opening Prayer of Mass)