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February 26, 2017

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Gospel passage that we hear today has a special feature, on which we pause a while.

It begins by saying that we cannot serve two masters: the human heart is made to give itself entirely to a single end.

Then Jesus goes on to say: therefore I say to you, do not worry yourself …

This therefore directly ties the entire discourse on trusting providence to the brief sentence mentioned earlier, on not serving money.

What does it mean?

We can attempt an interpretation by starting from the entire context of the Sermon on the Mount.

In the past few Sundays, Jesus had taken again the old law, that given by God to Moses, and reread different norms of interpreting them according to their original intention. An original intention that in every case was not limited to holding back evil, but aimed at fulfilling the destiny of man in a definitive fullness.

They were the so-called “antitheses”, and they concerned murder, adultery, divorce, oath…

Perhaps even here we can find traces of an “antithesis”.

Because the first law given by God to Moses concerns just idolatry, and says that the human heart cannot be fulfilled except by worshiping one God: “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

God knows that the great temptation of man is not so much that he does not believe in God, but rather to make himself a god in his own measure; it is to put his own god beside the one true God.

And it is a serious temptation, because the relationship with God cannot exist except at the cost of an absolute trust. Only by fully trusting Him can we actually experience His love.

This is why Jesus takes up this law again.

And he declares first of all that the temptation of idolatry is close, and insinuates itself there where everyone puts their own security in money: money becomes an idol, which apparently claims to save, to give security and life, but then becomes a demanding master that reduces life to slavery: the risk is that the money does not serve man, but it is man serving money. And it happens when wealth comes to occupy the thoughts, the feelings, the will: man lives for it, lives to possess.

But, as in the other antitheses, Jesus does not stop there.

You have heard that it was said not to have idols, but I say to you do not even be troubled, do not worry yourselves.

Because behind all idolatry there is a concern for ourselves, and that’s where Jesus is going.

It is as if he said: the original intention of the law is not only to have one God, but that man is liberated from the need to think always of himself, that he is liberated from solitude; and this happens not by multiplying the sources of security, but by learning to trust completely in the Father.

It’s as if he said that every concern is itself an idolatry, because man becomes a slave to a frantic search aiming to save himself.

Perhaps this is the most demanding passage of the Sermon on the Mount, and it is perhaps the one from which all the rest derive.

But how to learn trust?

Like last Sunday (when we were invited to watch as the Father gives the sun and rain to all, without distinction, cf. Mt 5:45), also today Jesus says first of all to look: look at the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field (Mt. 7:26-28), to realize there is a Providence capable of taking care of creation even in its smallest details.

Accustom your gaze, because it may become a gaze of faith. Then we will realize that the Father knows what we need: and He who gave us his Son, how will He not give us everything else?

Instead of worrying, of troubling ourselves, Jesus proposes another approach, which is that of search.

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added  unto you” Mt 6:33.

We have seen time and again, in the first chapters of Matthew, how the Kingdom of God and His righteousness are nothing other than the Father’s loving will and salvation for us. Then, Jesus says, stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about others, for their good, about what they need.

Because this is how the Father cares for us, by teaching us to care for one another.

So tomorrow we will no longer be afraid, and we will not have to occupy today in thinking about tomorrow.

In fact, the worry and the preoccupations have power to put disorder in the day: tomorrow overflows into today, and everything occupies it, by, de facto, preventing us to live.

Seeking the Kingdom, instead, puts order in the day: each day takes care of itself, each day has enough for itself (Mt 6:34); just as the people of Israel had learned the lesson of the manna (Ex 16), where nothing was to advance to the next day, because the day after would have been another day when the Lord would not have failed to feed.

+ Pierbattista

Original version in italian

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