8th Sunday of the Year Isaiah 49:14–15; 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Matthew 6:24–34
He knows the reason “Trust in God at all times, my people.” Today’s Responsorial Psalm (62:8) Apopular Peanuts cartoon shows Charlie Brown going to a vacant lot to kick his football around.
Lucy appears and offers to hold the football so that Charlie can get a good run and get off a better kick.
Charlie says to her, Do you think I’m crazy? Do you think you can fool me with your same old trick every year?
A repentant Lucy says, This year I promise not to pull the football away just when you’re about to kick it. I give you my solemn word.
Charlie thinks for a minute and says, Okay! I’ll give you one more chance. I’ll trust you one more time.
As he walks away to get a good run, Charlie says to himself, We should trust people, no matter what. If you can’t trust people, life isn’t worth living.
With that he begins his run. Just as he brings his leg through for the kick, Lucy pulls the ball away. Charlie’s leg goes out from under him and he goes sprawling to the ground.
Charlie lies on the ground thinking to himself, You can’t trust anyone anymore. I’ll never trust anyone again, as long as I live. We can relate to Charlie Brown as he lies on the ground. We can relate to him because we ourselves have seen people’s trust betrayed so many times.
The papers are full of stories of elderly couples who trusted some real estate agent only to have the agent swindle them out of their life savings.
And how often have we seen a nation trust an elected official, only to have the official betray that trust by selling out to some powerful lobby in Washington?
What is even worse is that we ourselves have had our own trust betrayed by someone close to us.
We trust a friend with a secret and the friend tells it to someone.
We trust a son or a daughter, and we discover that he or she is unworthy of that trust.
We trust a loved one, and we discover that the loved one is cheating on us.
Like Charlie Brown, we find ourselves saying, You can’t trust anyone anymore. I’ll never trust anyone again, as long as I live.
What can we do when we find ourselves in this situation? What can we do when we find we are no longer able to trust anyone even those closest to us?
The answer is found in today’s Scripture readings.
They remind us that there is still someone whom we can trust. And that someone is God.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah says that even if a mother should forget her infant and be without tenderness for it, God will never forget us or abandon us. We can always trust him. He is always faithful.
And in the gospel reading, Jesus assures us that the God who shows such providential concern for nature is even more concerned about us.
He will never let us down. He is someone we can always trust, no matter what.
The kind of trust that today’s readings invite us to place in God is illustrated by a beautiful story.
Several years ago, in Chicago, a 12-year-old boy named Jon lost his mother through a rare illness. She died shortly after being rushed to the hospital one day. Jon said later:
After Mom’s death,I would wander about the house aimlessly, going from room to room.I was utterly confused and lost. I missed my mother terribly.
Everything she ever touched became precious to me: her prayerbook on her bedside table,the little yellow bucket she used to water her plants, the vacuum cleaner she used to clean my room.
Then one day Jon’s eyes spotted a card under the glass top of his dresser. He recalled seeing it there for the first time just before his mother went to the hospital. But he didn’t bother to read it then. Now, excited, he pulled it out and read. It said:
For ev’ry pain we must bear, For ev’ry burden, ev’ry care, There’s a reason.
For ev’ry grief that bows the head, For ev’ry teardrop that is shed, There’s a reason.
For ev’ry hurt, for ev’ry plight, For ev’ry lonely, pain-racked night, There’s a reason.
But if we trust God, as we should,It will turn out for our good. He knows the reason.
As I sat there, said Jon, I could picture my mom coming into my room before going to the hospital and putting the card there, as if to say: “It’s all right, Jon. God knows the reason.”
From that moment on, said Jon, I was able to cope with my mom’s death. Her own trust in God rubbed off on me?
That story brings us back to the cartoon of Charlie Brown and to the problem it raised: Charlie’s inability to trust again.
It is this same problem that Jesus addresses in today’s gospel. He says to us what the psalmist says in today’s responsorial psalm: Trust in God at all times, my people.
Let’s end with a prayer. Please bow your heads and pray along with me in silence:
Lord, teach us to trust you the way Jon and his mother did when they said, “If we trust God, as we should, It will turn out for our good. He knows the reason.”
Lord, teach us to trust you the way Jesus urged his followers to trust you in today’s gospel.
Lord, help us trust you the way Mary did when the angel told her she would bear a son, even though she was a virgin.
Lord, help us trust you the way Jesus did when he prayed on the cross, “Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” Luke 23:46
Series II 8th Sunday of the Year Isaiah 49:14–15; 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Matthew 6:24–34
Angel’s wing Seek God’s kingdom first, and all these other things will be given you besides. Arthur Gordon has written a beautiful article called “Message from the Sea.” It’s about an episode from his personal life.
One night he had a problem that wouldn’t go away. He called a friend and went over to see him. After talking with him for a while, Gordon saw his problem in a new light.
Grateful for his friend’s help, Gordon said to him, “Ken, you have a deep calmness and wisdom. Where’d you get it?”
Ken thought for a moment, as if debating with himself whether or not to answer the question.
Then he opened a desk drawer, pulled out a cardboard box, and set it on the desk.
“If I have the qualities you say I do,” he said, “they come from what’s inside this box.” Then, without taking the lid off the box, he continued, saying something like this:
Back in the 1920s, I was Wall Street’s “wonder boy.” Everything I touched turned to gold. I made money fast, and I spent it fast.
I married my wife, not because I loved her, but because she helped my image. Back then, I was incapable of loving anyone, except myself.
Then came the Wall Street crash. I went from being a millionaire to being a pauper. My response was predictable. I went off alone to a beach cottage and began to drink.
After three days of heavy drinking, I decided to end it all. I’d simply swim out into the ocean as far as I could. The rest would take care of itself.
Early the next morning, I got up and went down to the beach. It was a good morning for my plan. The weather was stormy and the waves were big.
When I reached the water, I looked down and saw something in the sand. It was white and sparkling. I bent over and picked it up. It’s what you see in this box. With that, Ken removed the lid from the box. Inside was a beautiful, delicate seashell. It was so delicate that, in places, it was almost like tissue paper. Ken said:
As I stood on the beach holding the shell, I couldn’t understand how it had survived the storm. How could it have been scooped up by the waves, swept along by the storm, and slammed onto the beach without breaking?
Then suddenly the answer came to me.It was because the shell had not fought against the sea and the waves. It had simply floated along with them and accepted them as facts of life.
That shell, gave me a new insight into how to live. Instead of growing angry at life’s bad breaks, and instead of worrying about life’s problems, I should simply float along with them and accept them as facts of life.
All the anger and worry in the world won’t change them anyway.
When I left the beach, I took the shell with me; I’ve had it ever since.
“What’s the shell called?” Gordon asked.
Ken smiled and said, “It’s called an Angel’s Wing.”
Ilike this story because it makes the same two points that Jesus makes in today’s gospel.
First, it illustrates Jesus’ point that we can’t serve two masters. We can’t serve both God and money.
Ken had decided to serve money. And so it became his master, and he became its slave. It so enslaved him that he didn’t have room in his heart for anything else.
Second, it illustrates Jesus’ point that we shouldn’t worry about material things.
“What little faith you have!” “[D]o not start worrying. . . . Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God . . . and he will provide you with all these other things.”
The point Jesus makes to his disciples is the same point the shell made to Ken. The shell was no match for the ocean and the storm. So it didn’t worry about them. It didn’t grow angry because of them. It simply accepted them as facts of life. None of us in this church today are Wall Street millionaires. And none of us are slaves to money, as Ken was.
But all of us, to some extent, try to serve two masters. It’s only natural. We want the best of both worlds.
In today’s gospel, however, Jesus says we can’t serve two masters. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we can. Also, probably none of us in this church today have lost our life’s savings in a single day, as Ken did.
But all of us, to some extent, have suffered other kinds of setbacks. And all of us have experienced worry and anger because of them.
In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that all the worry and anger in the world won’t change these setbacks one bit. Instead of worrying and becoming angry, we should accept them as facts of life.
We should do more.
We should realize that our heavenly Father can use our setbacks and turn them into something good for us. He can change what seems to be a cross into a blessing.
Paul makes this point in his Letter to the Romans, saying, “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him.” Romans 8:28
And so today’s gospel carries an important message for us.
It tells us not to worry about life’s setbacks. It does more. It invites us to accept them graciously, trusting that, in the long run, God will turn them into blessings for us, as he did for Ken.
Let’s close with a prayer:
Lord, keep us from worrying about setbacks. Help us see them not as stumbling blocks but as stepping-stones in our journey to you.
Help us see that although our tears may flow at night, your joy will fill our hearts in the morning. M.L.
Series III 8th Sunday of the Year Isaiah 49:14–15; 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Matthew 6:24–34
God’s providence We can count on it no matter what, so do not worry.
J esus said, “Look at the birds . . . your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? . . . So do not start worrying.”Matthew 6:26, 31
Henry David Thoreau was a naturalist. He lived during the era of slavery that led to the Civil War.
His love for nature and the freedom made him abhor slavery with a passion.
He spoke out against this tragedy; he harbored runaway slaves; and he wrote passionately in defense of John Brown who was eventually executed for his militant opposition to slavery.
Apassage from one of Thoreau’s writings fits in beautifully with his love of nature and Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel.
To appreciate the passage, we need to recall that when Thoreau lived there were no cars. Travel was by horse- drawn vehicles.
Roads were often only a pair of wheel tracks worn into the ground by the wheels of the vehicles and the horses’ feet. It is against this background that he wrote:
I saw a delicate flower that had grown up two feet high between the horses’ feet and the wheel tracks.
An inch more to the right or left or an inch higher would have sealed its fate. Yet it lived to flourish, and never knew the danger it incurred.
The image of that delicate flower growing up between the wheel tracks and horses’ feet captures the spirit of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel. He says:
Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work . . . But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers.
Your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more . . . So do not start worrying . . . Instead, be concerned about the Kingdom of God and what it requires of you. The kind of trust in God that Jesus is talking about is illustrated by the story of Ann Jillian, the lovely actress who was equally at home on the Broadway stage, a Hollywood set, or television cameras.
When she discovered she had cancer and had to have a double mastectomy, she went to Saint Francis de Sales church to pray for courage and strength.
She had gone there many times before, but never noticed the inscription above its door. This time, however, she noticed it and read it. It seemed to have been written just for her at this moment in her life. It read:
The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. Let us take a closer look at these words. They promise something really important.
They promise that God, who is a loving, caring Father, will either protect us from suffering or give us the power to bear it when it comes.
They promise that God may not remove some cross that we are now carrying, but God will give us the strength to keep carrying it.
They promise that God may not erase some doubt that we are now experiencing, but God will certainly give us the courage to keep walking in the dark. I t is about this same message of trust that speaks to us in today’s Gospel. Perhaps, like Ann Jillian, we may be suffering from a health problem that is threatening our peace of mind. Perhaps we are suffering from an unfortunate situation at home that is concerning us more and more.
Perhaps we have a family member who is having a problem that threatens their welfare. Each one of us has some problem that is threatening our peace of mind. Each of us has some cloud that is hanging over our head. Each of us has some cross that is weighing us down.
To each of us Jesus speaks to us in the spirit of those words above the door of Saint Francis de Sales church:
The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
This raises a question. What do we do if we are finding it hard, if not nearly impossible, to put trust in God in our situation?
We should do what Ann Jillian did. She went into the church, knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, and prayed for the grace to trust that God loves us more than we love ourselves.
We should pray for the same grace that she did: the grace to trust that our heavenly Father will always be at our side to help and support is, no matter how dark things get.
If we do this, we will experience the same kind of peace that she did as she got up and left that church.
Let us close with a simple, but profound, poem by an anonymous poet. Called “A Little Sparrow,” it reads: I am only a little sparrow! A bird of low degree; My life is of little value, But the good Lord cares for me. . . .
I have no barn or storehouse; I never sow or reap; God gives me a sparrow’s portion. But never a seed to keep. . . .
I know there are many sparrows; All over the world they’re found But our heavenly Father knoweth When one of us falls to the ground.
Though small, we are never forgotten Though weak, we are never afraid. . . .
I fly through the thickest forest, I light on many a spray I have no chart or compass, But I never lose my way.