Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Feb. 27: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Synopsis: This week’s readings are not hard to understand, but they are hard to do, for who is not worried about something? The first reading comes from that part of Isaiah called “the book of consolation,” which was written during the Babylonian Captivity when the people of God had plenty to worry about. Dispossessed of everything that was familiar, it was a time of great sadness and uncertainty. Jerusalem was in ruins and the hope of ever returning to the Promised Land was gone. The first verse expresses Israel’s hopelessness: “God has forsaken us!” But the Lord consoles them, saying, “I will never forget you.”
In the second reading Paul refers to himself as a “steward of the mysteries of God.” At the beginning of the letter Paul had responded to criticisms directed at him and factionalism, which threatened to divide the Church. Certain groups didn’t respect his authority and denigrated his ministry. But as a “steward” Paul had been given special responsibility for the Church in Corinth.
This week’s Gospel reading contains one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. In it Jesus tells his disciples “do not worry about your life; what you shall eat, what you shall wear, etc.” He begins by telling them that they cannot serve two masters; a statement that echoes the first commandment. “Mammon” was a euphemism for money. Here it is personified as a “master” and in that sense acts like a false god and an idol. Putting one’s faith in something other than God only leads to misery and despair. Jesus therefore exhorts us to “seek first the kingdom of God.”
Key verse: “Only in God is my soul at rest; from him comes my hope” (Ps 62:6).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence. Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs” (No. 301; 305).
Pope Benedict XVI: “It is in times of pain that the ultimate questions about the meaning of one’s life make themselves acutely felt. If human words seem to fall silent before the mystery of evil and suffering, and if our society appears to value life only when it corresponds to certain standards of efficiency and well-being, the word of God makes us see that even these moments are mysteriously ‘embraced’ by God’s love” (“The Word of the Lord,” 106).
Life application: Anxiety, stress, and apprehension about the future rob us of peace. Now more than ever we need to take God’s word to heart: “Only in God is my soul at rest; from him comes my hope.” Only the Prince of Peace can give that peace which the world cannot give.
Abandoning ourselves to the providence of our heavenly Father, as Jesus did, isn‘t easy. But when we do, we are freed from fear and worry.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.