March 2, 2014 – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel from Matthew included in this Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time is a section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which occurs roughly in the middle. The total Sermon on the Mount, reported in Matthew Chapters 5, 6, and 7, is more than 2,000 words in length. Scholars estimate that it was about a twenty minute sermon. Jesus’ first sentence in the sermon is “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and His final sentence relates to someone who built his house on a rock rather than on sand as the Lord calls His followers and us to listen carefully to what He says and instructs because it is in that way we can provide a firm foundation for our faith.
There are so many quotable paragraphs and sentences and phrases in the full Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Gospel reading includes one of them. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow.” This central thought and theme of much of Jesus’ teachings is supported by the readings which come before it in today’s liturgy.
The first reading from Isaiah articulates God’s love for us no matter what. As we pursue our faith, as we try to practice stewardship as a way of life, the Lord knows that we will face obstacles and frustration. Isaiah foresees this and prompts us to never forget that God’s love for us is even greater than the love a mother feels for her child. “Can a mother forget her infant?” If we focus on God’s love, we can overcome that sometime feeling of being neglected. Remember always that even Jesus struggled with similar emotions, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
In his first letter to the Corinthians, our second reading, Paul addresses how we need to view the Lord. He does this by comparing himself and other apostles to God. He is quite firm in the fact that he, Paul, is a servant and a steward of God, and that people need to see him in that light. As we have indicated previously, sometimes the translations of Holy Scripture we receive are not completely accurate in conveying what was originally written. In Paul’s original letter, which was written in Greek (Corinth was in Greece), Paul uses the word hyperitas which was translated to “servants.” The actual Greek word for “servant” was doulos. Paul is emphasizing a different kind of relationship. Hyperitas means a free, but subordinate individual. Paul confirms that relationship by adding the phrase “and stewards.” We, like Paul, are called to stewardship and service, and Paul wants us to know that.
As always, the Gospel, the actual words of Jesus in this instance, is replete with guidance and teachings which are essential to us in trying to live out the Christian life to which we are called. As included in Isaiah, we must place our complete trust in God, and as in First Corinthians, we need to see that we are stewards of God’s many gifts. It is easy for us to get embedded in our day to day lives, and to become anxious and worried in that regard. We cannot “serve two masters” — that is, God and all those things we think are so important in our secular lives. The steward places all in the hands of the Lord. Stewardship is a genuine response to Jesus’ teaching “Do not worry… tomorrow will take care of itself.”