OUR LIFE IS IN GOD’S HAND
Readings: (1st: Ish 49, 14-15; Ps 61, 2-3. 6-9; 2nd: 1Cor 4, 1-5; Gos: Matt 6, 24-34)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
On this 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year, A there is a blessed assurance from both God and the Church that as children of God, his love and care protects and overshadows us. God is ever close to us whether we know it or not, caring for us even in a manner that a nursing mother cannot care for her baby. Hence, Isaiah employs the metaphor of God as a mother to capture this caring nature of God.
Kathleen Schakowsky in her article published on August 22, 2012, in the Wall Street Journal titled: In South Africa, a Grassroots Battle on Baby Abandonment reported that: “When police in Port Elizabeth confirmed earlier this month that they had retrieved a newborn boy alive in a shoe box inside a plastic bag, it added to accounts of infants abandoned by mothers in toilets, flowerpots, railroad tracks, rubbish bins, sidewalks and city parks. According to one group, the number of abandoned babies fell from 2008 to 2009 but rose over the next two full years. Some 2,583 infants were abandoned across the country in 2011, up 36% from the year before, said the group, Child Welfare South Africa, a nongovernment organization that collected the data from 263 member organizations.” Also, statistics on Abandoned Children provided by an NGO called International Street Kids (ISK) has it that: “Over 400,000,000 abandoned children live on their own on the streets of hundreds of cities around the world. They subsist hand to mouth and struggle to just survive the day.”
Although the historical context of our first reading was Israel in exile, today, we as well as our entire world plunged into deep crisis, a gloomy future and to a great extent exiled from God are the newest contexts. Only God can make our future bright and possible, and the image of God as mother is used to emphasize this point. Isaiah 42, 14 presents God as pregnant and giving birth; 66:12-13 portrays God as nursing and comforting the newborn. The metaphor of God as mother is also basic to understanding the text we are considering. It is possible for the actual mother of a child to forget her child, even her nursing child and for the literal mother of the child to show no compassion for a child she has borne as we see in the reports above. But it is not possible for God because he himself vowed that: “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you!” Yes, something is not possible for God. God is faithful and this means that His options are limited. God will not and, indeed cannot forget us. This is an act of divine self-limitation. In fact, we are inscribed or engraved on the palms of God’s hands (Ish 44:5). We are therefore part of the very identity of God. He will forever be known as our God as the Psalmist asks: “What great nation has God as their god?” (Deut 4, 7). Come what may, we can count on God, not only to bring our future to birth, but to sustain our progressive life. God is Mother in a way that no earthly mother can be. This divine comfort and compassion for us is what the prophet assures us of today. Of all the comfort that our earthly mother can bring to us, God’s comfort and compassion is unsurpassable.
In the second reading Paul draws our attention to what should matter to us, and this is the fact that we are: “Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.” So, rather than worry ourselves to death about what human beings feel about us, we should like Paul, strive to be found “worthy of God’s trust.” Though we are not perfect, we should abandon ourselves to God. What matters most is what God says about us and not just what human beings who are greatly limited say about us. So what should bother or “worry” us is how to please God who has called us to be servants, rather than about how to please human beings. We must keep our conscience cleared and get ourselves relaxed in the hands of God to whom we owe great allegiance.
In today’s gospel, Jesus admonishes us to be focused with the business of God. Hence, he encourages us to remain united to God while paying less attention to the mundane, especially, money whose love we are told is the root of all evil (1Pt 6, 10): “You cannot serve two masters (God and money) at the same time. The most important message here for us today is the fact that we should place all our trust in God, live free of the worries of this life that weighs us down. We should do the best we can and place our trust in providence that will not disappoint us because Jesus has already assured us: “Caste all your burdens upon him because he cares for you” (1 Timothy 5, 7). Jesus says to us today do not worry (Greek: merimnesete, i.e. to be anxious, or to be apprehensive about possible danger or misfortune). Jesus is not commending recklessness, but calls us not to be distracted by worry. He gave us this injunction because he knows full well that worry disables our life whereas, faith in God’s providence enables it.” Jesus first tells us not to be anxious, and then provides the rationale. God, who gave us life, will provide for our needs because our life is in his hands and so, He will not abandon us or allow us to become weary in life. To buttress this further he uses nature to teach us what it means to trust in God, of course while not encouraging us to be lazy. He says, “Look at the birds of the air…” We know it is true that birds “neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns”, but they build nests, forage for food, and care for their young. Even though we are to depend on providence, we must also make use of the little talent we have because we have an obligation to do something for our own good: to work, to produce, to avoid idleness and dependency (2 Thess 3:6-13). Worry only wears us out and never adds anything to our life. Instead it tears up our physical and spiritual fabrics, shrinks us, and reduces the quality of our spiritual, moral, physical and psychological life. This is why Jesus puts this very daring question to us today while the least, not in any way encouraging us to be complacent or indifferent over important issues that require our urgent response. He asks us today: “…Can any of you by worrying add a single hour (Greek: pechun i.e. cubit) to your span of life?” My dear, the obvious answer is certainly a capital NO! Also, Jesus employs comparism between lilies (krina) and Solomon’s glory to illustrate lavish and flamboyant dressing. God created krina to be even more lavish and flamboyant than even Solomon’s Sunday best regalia. By doing this Jesus is by no means saying that we should not put on good cloths or be elegantly dressed. Rather, he wants us to eschew worry and anxiety about material things such as clothing, money, food etcetera. While it is good to enjoy God’s wonderful endowments, we are not to worry about them. It suffices to note here that Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater. So, if Jesus takes care of little creatures such as wild birds, flowers and grasses, will He not take care of us his own brethren and fellow Imago Dei for whom he laid down His own life? Certainly He will, because, we are cherished by the tremendous love of God, which is tender, caring and forgiving above every human love. All we need do this gracious and glorious Sunday therefore is to pray that we may be able to surrender to this love and care in perfect trust that God is able and willing to take care of us. So, instead of worrying ourselves to death, we must like the Psalmist today proclaim: “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!”
Peace be with you!