Today’s gospel continues Our Lord’s teaching which he gave in the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s extract is all about Divine Providence. In our 21st century materialistic, consumer driven society it’s a teaching that’s frequently neglected, even by devout Christians.
Our Lord tells us that we shouldn’t depend on our own resources or even those of the world. While we need to make use of what the world offers, God helps us to understand that our faith should be in him alone and not in material things. Our Lord wants us to understand that God will provide all that is needed and necessary for those who depend on him.
Now, this isn’t an easy teaching to accept, especially in today’s world where none of us can escape the use of material things. We know that if we want something we have to work for it and pay good money for it. Very few people nowadays can live what used to be called ‘the good life’ living simply off the land and what nature has to offer. Hard cash is needed to pay so many bills.
Most people work hard and we do our best to improve our material well-being. And for parents in particular, it’s also understandable that they want to provide a good life for their children, and they work hard to ensure that their children have a better life than they did. But we mustn’t let them grow up expecting material comfort without working for it. How long can grown up children rely on their parents to support them? It’s normal for young adults to leave home, establish their own families, and to fend for themselves. Most parents want to give their children a good start in life and to hand on the faith and the values that they grew up with.
When one of my old school friends got married I was surprised to discover that he and his fiancé had chosen today’s gospel for their marriage ceremony. It’s certainly not one that is normally read at a wedding, but I realised that this was to be a sort of manifesto for their marriage.
Their choice of reading was their way of saying that their marriage was to be grounded in God and that they realised that material things, like the flowers of the field, were only passing and shouldn’t be depended upon.
Our Lord invites us to place our trust in the Father who created all things. He assures us that he will provide for us even in the most extreme circumstances.
I’m sure each one of us can call to mind difficult situations in life when something unexpected turned up just in the nick of time. I know I can. Sometimes we just know deep in our hearts that this wasn’t some random accident but the very hand of God protecting us.
Now I’m not counselling anyone to be irresponsible, and I’m not suggesting that you give away all your possessions and expect God to come to your rescue. And neither is Our Lord. What he is saying is that we shouldn’t worry about material possessions or our lack of them. He doesn’t condemn anyone for being rich, but he doesn’t want us to become consumed with material desires or completely tied up in amassing wealth. Our Lord is helping us to understand that these are passing things and he invites us to place our trust in God. He is telling us that these preoccupations diminish our stature as human beings.
The essence of all this is that God is not a faraway, distant God with no interest in his creation. In fact, he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is intimately involved in each moment of our lives, even if he manages to do this in a totally unseen way.
As Christians, we understand this closeness of God to us, and we remember the words Our Lord spoke to his disciples when he sent them out to preach for the first time. He said: “tell them that the Kingdom of God is very near.”
The Kingdom is indeed very near. God is with us, God is always close to us; he is always leading us, guiding us, and protecting us.
Each time the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples he said to them: “Do not be afraid”. Our Lord comes to us bearing Good News; the good news that he wants us to be happy, he wants us to be free from fear and anxiety. He wants us, above all, to place our trust him.
It’s interesting to note that in the Early Church they didn’t go in for lengthy creeds, these came a bit later. Their profession of faith was simple and it consisted of just three words: Jesus Is Lord.
By these three simple words the early Christians acknowledged the dominion that Christ has over the whole of creation, and they declared their utter dependence on him. We should do the same.
Our Lord shifts the focus from what we do to why we do it. What he is trying to get us to understand is that the Gospel is all about acquiring the right attitude rather than about whether we should or shouldn’t do a particular thing.
The right attitudes of the Christian are to be found in the Virtues: faith, hope and charity being the highest of those virtues. If we live our lives aiming to achieve perfection in these things, then we might not live our lives smoothly, but we certainly will have lived our life well.
The riches Christ wants us to amass are not material wealth and status, which are earthly and transient, here today and gone tomorrow. He wants us to amass real and lasting riches; he wants us to amass those things which have eternal value: patience, kindness, humility, generosity, compassion.
If we are to pass anything on to our children, and all those who follow us, it should be these eternal values. Let us hand on to them the right sort of attitudes as their real and lasting inheritance. Let us hand on to them those things which might not make them comfortable or rich in the eyes of the world, but which will make them good and fulfilled human beings, made in Christ’s image and destined for eternal life.