8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
26th February 2016
Words help us create thoughts and ideas or conjure up pictures in our mind. Looking back on our childhood, which came first? It's hard to say. The Bible is full of words to describe God. There are nouns and adjectives, such as Lord and almighty; there are comparisons: God is like a shepherd or a warrior, for example. Today's readings are full of words and phrases, which enrich our knowledge and understanding of God. We also find words that describe you and me and our relationship with God. It's fascinating.
Isaiah says that God is like a mother, who does not forget her baby at the breast or fail to cherish the son of her womb. He is more than a mother to us, for human parents can forget and fail at times, God never does. And if God is our mother, then we are his children, lovingly nurtured at his breast or protected in his womb. What beautiful images! Little wonder the psalmist can sing, "In God alone is my soul at rest; my help comes from him. He alone is my rock, my stronghold, my fortress: I stand firm." In God I can take refuge, I can hope in him and trust him, "I can pour out my heart before him." What else, who else could I possibly need? God is everything for me. We read in the Gospel that he was everything for Jesus. "I and the Father are one."
In the section of the Sermon on the Mount we read this morning, the introduction about the slave of two masters doesn't quite fit in with what follows, the exquisite teaching about the lavish generosity of "our heavenly Father," which is not requited by the obsessive worrying of his earthly children. How the psalmist's trust has evaporated. Jesus has to warn his disciples, "Do not worry about tomorrow." The birds of the air and the flowers of the field simply rely for all things on God, yet we, like Martha, "men of little faith," fret and worry about the very things God in his mercy will provide. "Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well." Our heavenly Father is all we need, like a child in its mother's womb or an infant at her breast. It's good to say frequently that prayer of Julian of Norwich, "God, of your goodness, give me yourself: you are enough for me."
Today, we don't like the word slave and tend not to use it in our modern translations of the Scriptures. We have horrific memories of the slave trade and are distressed by the many vicious forms of slavery rampant in the world today, from which, however, we readily benefit. Yet, Our Lady was proud to call herself a slave in the Magnificat and in her reply to the Angel at the Annunciation. In the New Testament it refers to someone who gives himself up to God's will and whose service is used by Christ for the sake of the Kingdom, someone devoted to the mission of preaching the Gospel and bringing salvation to others. In First Corinthians, St Paul really does speak of us as "Christ's servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God." Whether we are slaves or servants, we must be "worthy of trust," and of this only God can be the judge. Let us pray, then, that when we are judged for our stewardship of the faith, God will find us trustworthy and worthy of his Kingdom. We can begin today by putting our trust in God alone.