HOMILY FOR THE EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
Isaiah 49:14-15/ Psalm62 /1Corinthians 4:1-5/ Matthew 6:24-34
AGORSOR Aaron Agbeshie
THEME: Worry no more
Last week’s Liturgy reminded us of the fact that we are to be holy just as God our Father is holy. This means that we have been set apart or consecrated to the Lord by virtue of our baptism in order to sing the praises of God who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). Today, our Liturgy reminds us when we seek and walk in the righteousness of God, there is no need to worry about anything.
Life in this world is a great struggle for both the young and the old. For even those who have great riches, have troubles on their own. Rich men envy the poor man, poor men envy the rich, therefore, what is the sense in envying your neighbour so says the songster. The human being is said to be a social animal. Hidden in this animal is an insatiable desire for more. The readings for today’s liturgy invite all of us to a total dependence on God.
In the First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah reminds the Israelites of God’s faithfulness. Indeed, God cannot forsake his creatures and has never done that. We feel forsaken when our insatiable desires leads us away from Him. The Lord says “But Zion said, “the Lord has forsaken me, my God has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). I cannot imagine God forsaking us. If He does, we will cease to live. Rather, we have forsaken God. The Prophet Jeremiah says “ For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living water and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
It is when we put our trust in ourselves, our possessions and the like that we feel forsaken or abandoned. This is because, they give us false security. Thus in our disappointments, we blame God. But God assures us that “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
To be content with the life God has given us is to live the richest life of all. This is the message of the Gospel Reading of today. Whenever we choose another life aside what God has given us, the result is useless worries and anxieties. This is because “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). Therefore, Jesus warns us against the sin of idolatry.
Material things give us a sense of false security. “ … 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 of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 5:25-26). All of nature depends on God and God never fails. Only mortal man depends on material things and they always fail. Jesus says worry is sinful. We may dignify worry by calling it names like concern, burden, or a cross to bear but the results are still the same. Instead of helping us to live longer, anxiety only makes life shorter. Worry pulls us apart. Until man interferes, everything in nature works together because all of nature trusts God. Man, however, is pulled apart because he tries to live his own life by depending on material wealth.
Worrying about tomorrow robs us of the joys of today. Therefore, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). It is right to plan for the future and even save for the future. But it is sin to worry about the future and permit tomorrow to rob today of its blessings. Three words in this section of the Gospel point the way to victory over worry namely faith (Matthew 6:30), Father (Matthew 6:32) and first (Matthew 6:33). Put together, it reads: if we have faith in our father and put Him first, He will meet our needs.
Psalm 23 puts it beautifully and succinctly that “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1). Wants are things we can do without. They are the extra things that God blesses us with. We do not really need them. Needs on the other hand are things we cannot do without. Without them our life is meaningless. Yet Psalm 23 says that the Lord is our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want. This means that after providing our needs, God gives us our wants in good measure, pressing over. He fills our barns to overflowing. Most of the time, what we worry ourselves about are not really what we need but ‘wants’. But even our wants, he provides. That is why it is sinful to allow anxieties to fill our hearts because it leads you to doubt God and anyone who doubts God should not expect anything from Him (cf James 1:5-8).
The Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude are supposed to shape our life even as we go through life struggles. Prudence enables us to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it. Justice disposes us to give God His due and that of our neighbor. The virtue of Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. Above all, Temperance aids us to moderate our attraction for pleasure and provides balance in the use of material things which usually are the causes of our worry.
In sum, if the heart loves material things and puts earthly gains above heavenly investments, then the result can only be a tragic loss. The treasures of the earth may be used for God. But if we gather material things for ourselves, we will lose them and we will lose our hearts with them. Instead of spiritual enrichment, we will experience impoverishment. To worry is to build for ourselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water. When we become anxious unnecessarily, we behave like a man who goes to fetch water with a basket; a basket that cannot hold water. God is the source of living water and what a needless pain we bear when we fail to pray in our moments of anxieties; what a privilege we miss when we fail to tell God our problems.