Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reflection on Mass Readings for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Stewards of The Mysteries of God

With all the disturbing news and experiences regarding the sluggish economy and the even more sluggish job market, how are we to approach the following words of Jesus from today's Gospel: “Therefore I tell you, 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?
" (Mt. 6:25) If we too easily apply these words of Jesus to our own situation, it could make this Gospel teaching seem quite difficult to believe and make the Lord seem a bit "detached." After all, in the face of all the signs of the times concerning the housing market, unemployment rate, rising gasoline prices, rising costs of college education, and the agonizingly slow economic recovery, to not be the least bit concerned nor to worry a tinge would be to live in utter denial! Certainly Jesus would not teach us to do that! So, what is REALLY being taught by the Lord?

At the heart of today's Gospel isn't so much a teaching about anxiety but a teaching about priority. At the beginning and end of today's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, "You cannot serve God and mammon", and "seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness." Jesus is far less concerned about emotional states (anxiety and worry) and far more concerned with "attitudinal states": living an upstanding, truly human, godly life, and deriving ultimate value not from wealth but relationships, especially one's relationship with God. Now, this is all well-and-good in principle, but what does it look like to "serve God" and to "seek first the Kingdom of God"?

In Paul's letter to the Corinthians (today's second reading), he exhorts the Corinthians to be "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." Therefore, scripturally speaking, to "serve God" and to "seek first the Kingdom" means having the attitude of Christ, who, "though he was in the form of God, didn't deem equality with God....but took the form of a slave" (Philippians, 2:6-7). Seeking the Kingdom means striving to be aware, mindful, sensitive, and responsive to the needs of others. It means curbing our own wants so that others might have what they need. It implies cultivating a healthy ability to sacrifice for the sake of another or others. It means, in short, to love in a way that brings life to others. To acquire the attitude of Christ, like Jesus himself, we must become "stewards of the mysteries of God." For the Christian, this means a familiarity with the way that God has revealed God's divine heart in scripture and, above all, in and through the life of Christ. It means finding our "place" in the great story and mystery of salvation history, making it our own, and sharing it with others in the way that is most helpful to them. Whether or not we feel anxiety or worry is really not the issue. What is essential is that we give priority of place to embodying the values of Jesus by living as ambassadors of the Kingdom and being "stewards of the mysteries of God." Pat, TOR