Sep172014
The work of DignityUSA on September 17, 2014 could have been sponsored by you. Click here for more information.

MARCH 2,2014: EIGHTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

Isaiah 49:14-16a
I Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

In his classic New Jerome Biblical Commentary article on Deutero-Isaiah, the late Carroll Stuhlmueller called today's first reading "one of the most touching expressions of divine love in the entire Bible." "But Zion said, 'Yahweh has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.' Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name."

The 6th century BCE exiled Israelites had good reason to think Yahweh had forgotten them. They'd been in Babylon for almost 50 years before this unnamed prophet of consolation came on the scene. Most presumed they and their children would never again set foot in the Promised Land.

Deutero-Isaiah's first agenda item was simply to get his listeners to believe that God really cared about them and their predicament. Throughout the 16 chapters - 40-55 - for which he is responsible, he constantly hammers away at Yahweh's concern. Even a casual reader immediately surfaces that essential message of faith. The prophet was convinced that those who believe in Yahweh's word also believe in Yahweh's love.

Over 500 years later, as we hear in today's gospel pericope, Matthew's Jesus keeps hammering away at a parallel theme in his Sermon on the Mount. "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? ... If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is gone tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?"

Instead of spending our time worrying about taking care of our physical needs, Jesus demands we worry about something else: "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides." In other words, if we're focused on surfacing God working effectively in our daily lives and concerned with living our lives as God wishes us to live them, then we have everything we'll ever need.

In our I Corinthians passage, Paul also shares a wish with his readers which isn't being met: the desire to have all followers of Jesus united in the same mindset. His wish certainly isn't being carried out by many of those he evangelized in Corinth. Instead of unity, the Apostle has not only discovered deep divisions in this Greek church, but he also has learned that his methods of evangelization are the basis for some of those divisions.

Yet those divisive attitudes don't stop him from carrying on his ministry. "It does not concern me in the least," Paul writes, "that I be judged by you or any human tribunal. I do not even pass judgment on myself." He only wants to be judged on one thing: "One should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." Paul only wants to be judged as being "trustworthy" in carrying out his ministry, even if some of those he serves never seem to understand the deeper purposes of his service.

Perhaps the most significant line in today's readings is Jesus' remark, "No one can serve two masters."

Those who serve Yahweh in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Jesus in the Christian Scriptures are expected to do so with everything in him or her. We're to have just one focus in life. There's to be no fudging in our service even when we don't feel all our needs are being met. Our sacred authors presume it's in the midst of our service that we actually find our life's true fulfillment. We have God's word on it.