If you have been following the gospel texts, you would notice that there has been a jump from Chapter 6: 1- 24. This ‘missing’ verse will form the curtain raiser for the season on lent to begin this Wednesday and we will reflect upon it on Ash Wednesday.
Today’s gospel can unfortunately be highly misused by those who get caught up with headlines rather than the fine print. The headline does not read. Money is the root of all evil but the love of it. So it is not a condemnation of wealth or possessions but a dire warning if we begin to be servants to wealth. In that sense even a billionaire, obsessed by money is still a SERVANT.
When we say ‘Jesus is Lord’, (Greek Kyrios) we are saying that we are single minded in serving Him. What we mean is that God claims total lordship over us and we submit to it and nothing comes between us and the Love of God in Christ Jesus. So we can possess money but it should never possess us. “Mammon” (from the Aramaic term for possessions or wealth) is not condemned in the Bible but the love of it, is.
So having set our hearts on the Master (owner) we rely on Him only. Six times in ten verses will Jesus use the word ‘anxious’ or ‘worry’ depending upon which translation of the Bible you are using. Merimnaó, the Greek word, translates more like “consider” or “think about” rather than come apart with worry.
Jesus wants us to take a look at nature and learn from it. Our basic needs of food, drink and clothing will be taken care of if we trust. Notice, shelter is not mentioned. This is because the Galilean listeners of Mark’s gospel were far more prosperous than other parts of Israel that were in destitution. Also shelter was not such an urgent need in the near east, as much as food, water and clothing were.
Make no mistake; nature is not being romanticized as that which has nothing to worry. What is being highlighted to us is that God is in charge of our life and when we trust Him, as we should, He will take care of our every need. Storing treasures may only find them attacked by rust, worm or thieves (verse 19-21)
The heart of this Sunday message is found in those ever living words of truth especially for those who have TRUSTED AND TASTED (taste and see that the Lord is good) The call to the disciple is to ‘STRIVE’ for the kingdom of God (RSV version )rather than the commonly used SEEK. Strive first, for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and ALL THESE THINGS (food, drink and clothing and not a Mercedes Benz, (though God could give us that too) will be given to us.
I emphasize here two words, ‘STRIVE for the kingdom and it righteousness ‘and ‘THESE things given’. For Matthew, striving/seeking the kingdom and striving/seeking for justice are not two distinct quests. He wants us to understand that there is no authentic search for the kingdom except in a quest whose immediate goal is justice. But the focus is also on us, as humans. We are to strive in this seeking.
The Christian life is an effort towards an active establishment of the kingdom of justice and not a passive participation in it. Interestingly the promise for such hard work is that “all THESE things will be given”. It does not say ALL THINGS WILL BE GIVEN. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for our daily bread and not scones with clotted cream. It’s not, as I said before, that the Lord can’t provide such luxuries; but to be mad at God for not receiving them is a bit unfair. He promised that all these things (vs. 25) namely food, drink and clothing WILL BE GIVEN and having experienced it in my life I can respond confidently to the Psalmist (Psalms 34:8) and say, “TASTED AND Trusted THE LORD IS INDEED GOOD.” So, Merimnaó (now consider…J)
Fr Warner D’Souza
With inputs from the JBC
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