Saturday, February 18, 2017

PUTTING GOD FIRST.


Homily for February 26th, 2017: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.
         Isaiah 49:14-15; Matthew 6:24-34.
AIM: To show that God=s providential care is experienced most by those who live with generous trust in him.   
 
AZion said, >The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.=@ Those were the opening words of our first reading. Have you ever felt like that? You pray, and the Lord seems to answer with silence. In that first reading the whole of God=s people ask whether God cares. In one of the most beautiful verses of Scripture, God answers their plaintive question. ACan a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she should forget, I will not forget you.@
Scripture portrays God as our father many times over. God=s loving care for us includes qualities usually regarded as masculine: strength, power, sternness in discipline, and generosity in reward. But God is more than a father. Here he speaks as a mother. His concern for us includes qualities we think of as feminine: gentleness, tenderness, and warm, protective love.
Jesus continues this theme in the gospel. God=s tender concern for us, his children, exceeds that of the best father and mother combined, Jesus says. He knows our needs before we do, even as a good mother senses in advance the needs of her baby. Even nature shows God=s loving care for everything he has created, Jesus tells us. Look at God=s handiwork in the flowers, his care for the birds. Do you suppose for one minute, Jesus is asking, that you are of less value than these? If so, you have little idea of your true worth in the eyes of your heavenly Father.
AStop worrying,@ Jesus says. ADo not be anxious.@ Is he telling us not to work and plan for the future? Of course not. The people to whom Jesus was speaking in today=s gospel lived hard lives. They had to work longer hours than almost any of us. Moreover, they lived close to nature. When they heard Jesus speaking about the wild flowers, and the birds, they understood. They knew that there are few creatures who work as hard for their living as the average sparrow, flying back and forth innumerable times to build a nest; foraging for worms and other food, and then flying back to the nest to feed its young.
What do you worry about? Some people worry about basic necessities. In our rich and comfortable society others worry not about necessities but about luxuries. They think they must have everything bigger and better. They want to Amake it big.@ Some die of heart attacks in the attempt. Others burn out on their way up and never have time to enjoy the fruit of all their worry and toil. 
Has your job or your career become an end in itself? Do you ever take time to relax, to be with your loved ones, to enjoy God=s beautiful world, to read a good book, listen to some fine music B to pray? If not, don=t you think it=s time you started B before you burn out, or burn up?
ANo one can serve two masters,@ Jesus says. AYou cannot serve God and mammon.@ Mammon is money and possessions. Money is a wonderful servant. It enables us to do so much good: for the people and causes we love, to help those in need, to satisfy our own needs. But money is a terrible master. Are you being mastered by what you have, or would like to have? If so, you are not rich B no matter how much you have accumulated. You are poor.
If that is your problem, then start today to put God first in your life. For instance, instead of giving to Church and charities the loose change left over after you have taken care of your necessities and as many luxuries as you think you can afford, how about deciding to give God and his poor the first share of your income B a truly grateful, generous share?
When you do that, you are making a faith-decision. You are trusting that what is left over after giving God Ahis@ share will be enough for you and your loved ones. People who make that faith-decision discover that what Jesus says in today=s gospel is literally true: AYour heavenly Father knows all that you need.@

Lent starts on Wednesday. Here’s a suggestion. Why not think and pray seriously about putting the Lord first in your life – yes, and in your budget as well. I decided to do that over sixty years ago. It has brought me so many blessings – yes, financial ones as well – that frankly, I can’t afford to stop.

Some years ago I submitted a sample of my handwriting to a graphologist for analysis. One passage in his report interested me especially: “You are not particularly thrifty; your plans for conservation and use of money may be somewhat haphazard. But you are certainly not worrying about money, for your debt frustration is one of the lowest I have ever seen.” I smiled broadly when I read that. I knew the reason. God had the first claim on whatever money I received from any source. I found that what was left over for me was always enough, and more than enough.   

Once you begin to put God first in your life, in all areas of life B including the one so important to most of us today, money B you are fulfilling Jesus= command in today=s gospel: ASeek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.@ When you start doing that, you make a wonderful discovery. All the things you previously spent so much time fretting and worrying about are taken care of. And you make another beautiful discovery: God can never be outdone in generosity.

ASeek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.@ That is Jesus Christ=s personal promise to you. And when Jesus Christ promises something, he always keeps his promise.