Thursday, February 23, 2017

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Solution to the Problem of Poverty

Today we are very familiar with the song SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD. It is usually sung just before the reading of the Gospel. Most of us do not know that it was the young lady Karen Lafferty who composed this song in 1971. The circumstances of how she wrote this song ware very appropriate to the lyrics of that song.

Of course she got the words from our Gospel reading today but how she put it into a song that became very popular around the world is very interesting and very instructive for us.

In 1971 Karen had just decided to quit singing in the entertainment bars to devote her life to singing for the Lord. She supported herself financially by teaching guitar lessons. She had only three students. When her savings were gone and she had no money even to pay for the installment for her car she became very discouraged and confused. One evening she went to a Bible study in church and the verse studied was Matthew 6:33 where in our Gospel reading today we read, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." She was tremendously encouraged and challenged by the words about Christ's kingdom. She went home, wrote the tune of the song we now use, recorded it on a tape recorder. She taught the song in the church the next week and it caught on right away. (from PERSPECTIVES Seek Ye First: Interview with Karen Lafferty).

That was in 1971. It is now 2017, forty-six years ago. We have sung that song almost at every Mass just before the reading of the Gospel. The message of that song if heeded would eliminate extreme poverty all over the world and in our country. But we are still facing extreme poverty. Millions of people still go to sleep with half-empty or full-empty stomach.

In the Philippines it is published by the Philippine Statistics Authority that 26.3 percent of Filipinos are very poor in the first part of 2015, its latest tabulation so far. There are indications that this poverty is getting hold of more and more Filipinos. This is strange because these same people sing this song of Karen Lafferty SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD (in English or in their own dialects) whose message if put into action would eliminate their poverty.

That is what Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." He was saying in effect, Seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness and you will have enough food, clothing and shelter.

It is also strange that in the course of my research on the commentaries about this statement of our Lord I have not come across a commentator who applied this passage to ending poverty on the social level, in society. The application was only on the personal level. They said in effect, If you seek God's kingdom and his righteousness you will have what you need for a living. They did not indicate that this message would also eradicate poverty in the community as a whole.

I think that the reason why this message of Jesus has not been put into action is because people were not taught what this kingdom of God is and what his righteousness is. We keep singing the song of Karen but we miss out on its meaning. Because if we got its meaning correct and acted upon it our lives would be totally different.

We would no longer work for ourselves during the week and work for the Church or God on Sunday. Some preachers (priests or laymen) in their desire to invite more people to attend Mass or Liturgy of the Word tell them some words like these, 'The whole week from Sunday to Saturday you work for your family. God is asking you only for an hour or so to attend his Mass or Celebration of the Word and still you cannot do this.' Such an approach gives the people a misunderstanding that it is only necessary for them to give God an hour or so during the week.

Seeking the kingdom of God is a 24/7 business or work. This means it involves 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. It is not one hour or so during the week. It does not involve only attending Mass or Celebration of the Word. It involves our whole life, from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we wake up the next morning.

And Jesus said that we seek "his righteousness", that is, God's righteousness. He did not tell us to seek our righteousness but God's righteousness. He wanted us to be as righteous as God is righteous. And this can be done by having a right relationship with God.

If God is our Father and we are his children by the sacrament of Baptism it is only right that we depend for everything on our heavenly Father and it is only right that our heavenly Father provides for all our needs. When we depend for everything on our heavenly Father the whole Gospel passage we have becomes very clear.

We will no longer worry about our life, what we will eat or drink, or about our body, what we will wear. We will be like the birds in the air fed by our heavenly Father because we are more important than these birds. We will no longer be anxious about clothes. We will be like the wild flowers. They do not work or spin. God clothes them and he will provide clothes for us also.

We will no longer worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' Our pagan neighbors seek these things. We are not like them. We are baptized children of God. Our heavenly Father knows that we need them all. We do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Unfortunately our people are not told these ideas of Jesus. So, they continue to make a living and fail to live the way Jesus wants them to live, that is, in complete dependence on the heavenly Father for all that they need in life.

Surely you are going to admonish me, “Physician, cure yourself. Preacher, practice what you preach. Depend on God completely for all your needs.”

By the grace of God I do depend on God for all I need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

But that was not my way of living before. Before I also used to worry. But one incident erased my worry.

This happened in 1984. I was eating my breakfast. After 10 minutes of eating my breakfast I noticed that the food I was eating was not diminished and I was already full. What happened? The only answer I can make out is that as I was eating God was also adding to my food so that it did not appear that my food was diminished. Then I understood that this is how Jesus multiplied the food on the lake shore of Gennesaret. It was God's way of telling me, Do not worry, I supply all your needs.

Our first reading brings out the concern of God for us most emphatically, God says that even if a mother would forget her infant he, God, will never forget us. He will always provide for our needs.

Our second reading tells us that God "will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts", whether we are seeking his kingdom and his righteousness or we are simply following our desires and inclinations.

I like this very brief statement by Charles Haddon Spurgeon In Faith's Checkbook, ‘You mind His (God's) business, and He will mind yours.’ God’s business is to make all of us obey him in everything. This is his kingdom. If we promote this we shall have solved the problem of poverty among us. Jesus told his disciples, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). This is because there will be always people who will not believe in him. But those who believed in him did not remain poor. For as the Holy Spirit says through Luke, “nor was there anyone needy among them” (Acts 4:34).

Let us bow our heads to pray.

Lord Jesus, you care for us. Your heavenly Father cares for us too. You do not want us to be destitute. You want us to have our share of food, clothing and shelter. And you told us how to have this, by completely depending on our heavenly Father for everything from the morning till the next morning every day. Help us to trust him in everything as you also trust him in everything. Amen.

- - - - - - - - - -

Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

No comments:

Post a Comment