26 February 20178 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
8 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
8 Ordinary Time
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Trust in the Lord

It is a real joy for us all to bask in the proclamation of today's Gospel, Matthew 6:25-34, the teaching on God's love and care for us. It certainly is easy to wax poetic on the beautiful images presented: the birds of the air cared for by God, the fields, dressed by God with wild flowers making them more grand than King Solomon in all his glory.

The images are beautiful, but we do need to be careful that the message is not lost in the poetry. The underlying message of this passage is pointed to those who are weak in faith, certainly me, perhaps also you. The theme of little faith, found throughout the Gospel of Matthew, strengthens those of us whose faith in the Risen Lord is continually assaulted by the situation of our daily lives. We are called to faith not just in times of great spiritual experiences, or in times of personal crisis, we are called to faith in the face of our typical day.

Two weeks ago we heard a passage in the Sermon on the Mount that precedes today's Gospel. It contained warnings about limiting the growth of holiness through a strict adherence to the letter of the law without going to the heart of the law. You remember the precepts: it is not enough to avoid murder, we cannot hate, and so forth. That passage was first pointed at the establishment thought of the Pharisees Scribes, and Sadducees. The limitations of the wisdom of these self styled sages is confronted with the enthusiasm a Christian must have in God. The bottom line is that we are to trust in God to provide. We should not base our trust on our money. Today's Gospel must have been seen as thoroughly irresponsible to the teachers of Jesus’ time, but it is an accurate demonstration of the faith we must nurture. "Don't worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Seek first God's kingdom over you and his way of holiness, and all will be given you." “What irresponsibility,” the ancient and modern sages of the world would claim. “What faith in God's love,” the Christian must reply.

The passage itself builds on the Lord's Prayer. In the Lord's Prayer, which begins some 20 verses before today's gospel, we are told to pray to our Father who is in heaven. Now we hear that our heavenly Father knows our needs. We pray that his kingdom may come. Now we are told that must seek his kingdom and his righteousness and all else will be given to us. We pray that God might take care of our daily needs, our daily bread. Now we are told that we must trust in God to take care of today and not worry about tomorrow.

In this age of information, when nothing is attempted unless it is the result of a thorough consultation, today's gospel affects us the same way it affected the pseudo sages of Jerusalem. It seems irresponsible to put our full trust in God and not to worry about tomorrow. This is the radical faith demanded of all Christians. We are challenged to live as individuals of faith in a materialistically orientated society. We are challenged to live out the Lord's prayer. We are challenged to put faith in God first, to make his kingdom our priority, to trust in him not in our stuff. Today's Gospel is not just a poetic image of God's love, it is a challenge to trust in this love.

These are the radical demands of Christianity. We are to put God first and have faith in Him; then our happiness is no longer dependent on the contents of our closets, our bookshelves, our cars, boats or houses, or even the people who move in and out of our lives. When we put God first, our happiness flows from the experience of the presence of God's love in our lives. When we put God first, we have the time, no, more than that, we have the ability to look at the birds of the sky and flowers of the fields and say, “God, how beautiful they are. How good You are. How caring You are.”

In today's Gospel the Lord calls us to enjoy life by trusting in him. If we develop that attitude of faith, then whenever the events of our lives become heavy, when calamity strikes individuals or relationships in a family, we can call on the presence of the Lord to care for us, to share our burdens. "Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome," Jesus will say later on in the Gospel of Matthew, "My yoke is easy, my burden is light."

May the Lord give us the faith to trust in the power of His love in our lives.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
8 Ordinary Time
Hidden Wisdom Week 5 - Do Not Worry (February 26, 2017)

Message: Along with leaving judgment to Jesus comes this challenge: Do not worry about tomorrow.

This Sunday I give the fifth and final homily on Hidden Wisdom. We have seen that God does reveal himself in ordinary ways - creation, other people and one's conscience. Still, to us he offers something greater: hidden wisdom. As St. Paul says, "we speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden..." Only by hidden wisdom can we make sense of Jesus' teaching, for example, the Beatitudes: "Blessed are they who mourn...Blessed are you when they insult you..." Hidden wisdom also helps understand the meaning of light and salt. You and I are not movers and shakers, but God wants to shake us like salt. Jesus wants us to permeate society like salt flavors a stew. Jesus teaches us to avoid lust, name-calling and equivocation, then he tells us to perfect. Perfection seems impossible until we examine the context - how God makes the sun shine on the unjust as well as the just. God's sees us as we are, yet offers mercy. Perfection involves striving for mercy. We see this in St. Paul's words about becoming "stewards of the mysteries of God" - that is, administrators of mercy and healing.

To administer mercy we have to stop passing judgment. Does this mean we refrain from all judgment? Well, if you are a parent, a teacher, a police officer you have to make certain judgments in order to care for the people for whom you are responsible. As a pastor I sometimes make limited judgments. I don't enjoy it, but I have a responsibility.

On the other hand I'm not responsible for the pope or the president.* I have to admit, I do enjoy judging him and other politicians, but maybe I need to listen to Paul, "Do not make any judgment before the appointed time." Then everything will be brought to light. For now here's the best policy: to mind one's own business. To judge when one has to, but otherwise leave things to the perfect and merciful judge. Along with leaving judgment to Jesus comes this challenge: "Do not worry about your life." This is super hard for me because I am a big worrier. I worry that someone will get upset or simply discouraged - and leave. I worry about our children - whether they will follow Jesus and practice their faith.

Yet Jesus says do not worry about tomorrow. This has implications I can't spell out in a single homily. Fortunately this Wednesday we turn a new page. We will receive ashes to remind us of the shortness of life. Things we worry about - including these malfunctioning bodies - will turn to dust. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Seek first the kingdom of God. Do not worry about tomorrow:
Only in God be at rest, my soul
for from him comes my hope.
He is my rock and my salvation
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
8 Ordinary Time
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 6: 24-34

Gospel Summary
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they” (Matthew 6:25-26)? There is something wonderfully reassuring about these words of Jesus. He knows how much our sense of security and satisfaction too often depend solely upon the fragile support of human effort alone. He wants us to realize that the only trustworthy support is God's love for us.

If only we would listen to the words of Jesus and notice how solicitous he is for even the smallest of creatures. It is the power of faith that enables us to tap into that divine source of goodness which consoles and liberates endlessly. Authentic faith is not limited to affirming the statements of a creed. Real faith is something that we pray for and yearn for. It is a gift that can change everything.

Life Implications It is said that Pope John XXIII, when visiting a group of seminarians in Rome and knowing that he was dying from cancer, said to them: "My dear students. Every day is a good day-- a good day for living and a good day for dying!” He could never have said that dying was a good day if he had not blest every day in his long life, and by now have discovered that he can no longer change this habit. The implication is that one must take time in the easy days to bless the goodness of God's world so that when the dark days come one can scarcely know anything so clearly as the blessing of another good day.

Faith also enables us to discover goodness in the most unexpected places. I discovered this when, as a little boy, I went with my mother to visit an aunt. I soon discovered that I was not interested in their conversation so I began walking around and soon discovered my aunt's flower bed. I admired its beauty and noticed how carefully it was cared for. Suddenly my jaw dropped as I noticed in the center of the flower bed a very large specimen of wild carrot. As a farm boy, I recognized it immediately as a nasty weed. About that time my mother and aunt came along and I was dumbfounded to hear my aunt point to my "weed” and say to my mother, "I want you to notice in particular this wonderful specimen of Queen Anne's Lace.” My "weed” just happened to have two names! Jesus tells us that the gift of faith enables us to find beautiful flowers where we thought there were only weeds. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they” (Matthew 6:25-26)?
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Eighth Sunday of the Year, Modern
Lectionary 82, Matthew 6: 24-34

Isaiah the prophet speaks the Lord's word today: "But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.' Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Isa 49:15). The image Isaiah presents is so striking precisely because it is impossible, or at least it should be: a mother could never forget her baby, a woman could never withhold kindness from the child in her womb—but we know that this does happen, and to be tragically fair we must include the fathers who "forget” their children or withhold kindness from them as well.

But thankfully the story does not end there; the Lord adds: "Even should she forget, I will never forget you” and then continues: "upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you” (Isa 49:16). Already from the times of rabbinic commentary on Isaiah it was noted that this verse could refer to the well-attested practice of making a primitive sort of tattoo of a loved one's name on one's hand, or it could be a reference to the practice of tattooing or branding slaves with the master's name or symbol. In the one possibility we are so beloved of God that, like spouses who wear wedding bands to publicly acknowledge their union, God wears a mark of his fidelity to his people. The other possibility is even more astounding: it turns our perceptions about God upside-down by picturing God as submitting to our mark of ownership. In either case these words are an amazing testimony to the depth of God's love for each one of us.

With this total devotion in mind we better understand Jesus' teaching in the gospel that "no one can serve two masters”. Awakened by Isaiah to the depth of God's love for us we can hardly offer half-hearted worship to the Lord while clinging to other desires or "masters”. At the practical level this means that we ought not worry excessively about the many concerns that crowd our lives and can quickly become our masters (see Matt 6:25-34). To be sure, we should be responsible in terms of providing a living for ourselves and our loved ones, and overcoming the obstacles in our way with the help of others, but we should not worry about such things, replacing hand-wringing worries with proper assertiveness and self-respecting action.

Further we should note how frequently the legitimate pursuit of the things of this world can become deformed into an obsession with acquiring more of everything. Such a preoccupation with our income, home, car(s), clothing, social standing, and so forth will invariably pull us away from the one truly important thing that our Lord highlights in today's gospel: the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). What Jesus is aching to get across to his hearers in both the first century and the twenty-first century is that when we look above all to God and his righteousness, all else is put in proper perspective and we can live at peace, knowing that we have what we need for the present life and by being content with that we prepare ourselves for the life to come.

As I re-read what I just wrote I realize that with the words "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” the Lord presents a very hard teaching! It is our natural human inclination, molded in part by the selfish effects of original sin, to prefer self-enrichment and worldly comforts and security. Jesus, however, asks us to walk with him in faith, prizing not earthly desires but those that are of God, and letting ourselves be filled with every blessing as the result. This is an often difficult path, but one he trod long before us: let it be our ultimate aim to follow in his footsteps so that we might hasten the coming of the Kingdom and the blessings it bears for all God's children. Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
8 Ordinary Time
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The Gospel today is all about our attitude towards money and material possessions. It begins with a warning that we cannot serve God and money. The word money used to be translated as Mammon.

Mammon is an unusual but extremely old word and originally has an Aramaic origin which is reputedly the language that Jesus himself spoke. It literally means money and possessions but it has a negative connotation and so it actually means wealth in which one puts one's trust and which could be classified as a false God.

Clearly this is something that is contrary to the Gospel. We can all think of people who place all their trust in material things whether they themselves are rich or poor. Pursuing the acquisition of possessions to the exclusion of other more spiritual values is something which ends up destroying our very humanity.

Jesus uses the word slave to heighten the contrast between our relationship with God and money. According to him we should be a slave of God rather than a slave of money. Presumably he is implying that being a slave of God is actually a liberating experience, one which brings us true freedom and fulfilment, while becoming a slave of money means being oppressed by the weight of our material possessions and ending up captive to them.

It is obvious that mankind is meant for better than this. We are at root spiritual creatures even if we have one foot firmly planted on this earth. Our calling is a high one; we are not meant to cling to material possessions but rather to the things of the spirit and we are invited to soar up to the heavens. Our calling is to embrace a life of virtue and to live our life with the values of faith, hope and charity at its core.

After uttering this condemnation of attachment to material possessions Jesus goes on to talk about the correct attitude for Christians to adopt. In short it is to depend utterly on Divine Providence. He tells us that if we do so then God himself will ensure that we have enough to eat and enough to clothe ourselves with.

He gives us two examples: the birds who do not sow or reap and the flowers who do not spin or weave. These correspond to the differing roles of men and women in the ancient world; it is men who toil in the fields to provide food and the women who weave the textiles for clothing.

The birds and the flowers have no choice, they simply do what they were made to do and God ensures that they are provided for. So therefore with us, we should do what we are made to do and then we will find all we need to live on. Of course, as human beings, our fundamental task is to give praise and worship to God. If we do this then God tells us that he will give us what we need. We must be careful here because this does not mean that God will make us rich and neither does it mean that we should do nothing for ourselves. No God gives us health and strength and intelligence and we need to use these attributes to make a living and to provide for our families.

What Jesus is talking about here is our fundamental attitude or outlook as human beings. He does not mean that we should ignore the world of material possessions, he does not tell us to sit back and do nothing waiting for pennies to fall from heaven. Idleness is the very last thing that God wants. He wishes us to be industrious and to work hard for the things we need but to do so with an eye constantly on him and on the values of his Kingdom.

At root what God wants is for us to have a right relationship with the things of this world as well as with the things of heaven. What he wants is for us to have everything in its correct perspective. What he wants is for us to have the right attitudes in life and so to come in due time to the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the most important things for a Christian parent to do is to inculcate in their children the correct approach to life. Children need to be helped to acquire the right attitudes in life so that they grow up to be good people; people who know how to live a human life in the most fulfilling way possible.

It is important to help children to get their relationship with the material things of our world in the right perspective. We all know that children constantly clamour for this or that new thing that their friends have. We are well aware that they want all the latest gadgets and other fashionable items. We also know that the advertising industry is well aware of how to manipulate them. It is important therefore that Christian parents have their own priorities in the correct order so that they are able to hand on to their children the right values they need to live their lives in a responsible way.

For twelve years I was the chaplain to a women's prison. I often met women in the prison who when I asked what they were in for would tell me that they were caught by the police when they stole some £120 trainers for their son or daughter. This is, of course, a shocking example; but we all know of people who will beggar themselves to provide articles for their children that are entirely unnecessary.

It is good for us from time to time to think carefully what attitudes we are handing on our children intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously. Occasionally it is good to review our situation and the attitudes we are passing on to our children. Many years ago, when one of my sisters got married she and her husband chose this very passage for the Gospel reading at their wedding. When I asked them about it because it was so unusual, they said that they had chosen it because they felt that it included the approach to life that they wanted their marriage to represent.

Christians should live their lives with a real dependence on God's Providence. We should place our trust in the God who created us, we should realise that he continues to care for us whatever our circumstances and that putting our trust in worldly things is absolutely futile.

Dependence on worldly things inevitably ends up in pride and arrogance. Dependence on God ends up in love, sharing, doing good, being generous and so on. In other words, on all those things that are sure to lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Further on in Matthew this is all summed up in one simple little phrase which encompasses the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.' If we take these words as our inspiration there is very little that can go wrong in life. If we take these words to heart then our attitudes will be the right ones and they will ultimately lead us to God's Kingdom of love, justice and peace.
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