Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), March 2, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
Central idea: God actually loves us. Doctrine: The dignity and vocation of the human being. Practical application: Greater respect for others.
To view the Lectionary 82 readings, click here.
Central Idea: God actually loves us
Reading 1 Is 49:14-15
Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my LORD has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
- Where did human beings ever get the idea that God exists, loves them, and will take care of them? We both wish for these to be true and God has revealed it to be so.
- The infant needs his mother and it is unnatural for her not to love him. We need God and it is impossible for him not to love us.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
R/ Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
With God is my safety and my glory,
he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him.
- A stronghold is a fortress built on rock out of rock. A stronghold is necessary to protect a people from enemies who would kill or enslave them, take away all their goods, and destroy the rest. Within a stronghold, one can rest at night, trusting in the strength of its walls and gates.
- We still build strongholds today, and rightly so: the military to protect a nation, various police forces to protect against criminals, locks and gates on our homes, and weapons for self-defense.
- But our only truly secure fortress is God. He is to us what a tender mother is toward her infant. In him we can rest and pour out our hearts, even to the point of crying like a baby.
Reading 2 1 Cor 4:1-5
Brothers and sisters:
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.
- Christ is our king and a king has servants—stewards—who are entrusted with responsibilities, which is why they must be “found trustworthy.”
- Paul and the other apostles are such stewards, servants with responsibility to safeguard and to share out “the mysteries of God,” that is, the Gospel.
- We, too, share in this responsible service. We, too, are entrusted with the “mysteries of God.” The kingdom of God will not grow without us taking up our responsibilities.
Gospel Mt 6:24-34
Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
- Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property. Some have speculated that it comes from a word that means “That on which man trusts” or “that which brings man into safety.” Why do the pagans seek wealth or property or anything that will keep them safe? Because they want to be safe! This world is an unsafe place. It is why the infant seeks his mother’s arms, the citizen his fortress, the pagan mammon. (If we are honest, we Christians act like pagans sometimes.)
- Our Lord sets up an either/or situation for us. Either we will find our security in God or in some created good. Since we are really radically insecure—we will die and nothing in the world can prevent that—we had better find our security in God’s goodness and love.
- Christ is giving us very practical advice day-to-day living: Deal with what you have to deal with today and don’t create imaginary worries about the future.
- Our Lord is not saying don’t be prudent and make plans. He is saying (1) do not place your trust in some created good because it will fail you and (2) do not create imaginary worries that make your today worse than it is.
- At the same time, Our Lord is saying he will take care of us now. If he provides a way for plants and animals to live, even more will he provide a way for us.
- Countless self-help books have been written promising how we can get some kind of security for ourselves. Our Lord, however, has provided for us a one-sentence self-help book. He advises us to take a stand and to trust in the outcome:
- “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”
- “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
Doctrine: The dignity and vocation of the human being
- Part III of the Catechism of the Catholic Church sets out how we are to live as followers of Christ. This way of living in rooted in our dignity, our social nature, the moral law, and God’s grace. Point 1700 summarizes the dignity of the human person, which the Catechism then develops in detail in eight articles.
- The source of our dignity that we are created in the image of God.
- Our summit of our dignity is our call to divine beatitude, happiness with God, the perfection of charity.
- Our dignity requires that we freely direct ourselves to this goal.
- We direct ourselves by our freely chosen actions that either do or do not conform to the God-given moral law we read in our consciences.
- Our dignity requires we contribute to our interior growth. Everything we do forms our interior life.
- Despite our dignity we are wounded, and so God gives us grace to grow in virtue, avoid sin, and repent from sin.
- This is how we finally “share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life” (CCC 356), which is “the perfection of charity.” (CCC 1700)
Practical application: Greater respect for others
- In God’s eyes, every person we encounter is, as it were, a prince or princess. This is true despite all the other details of his or her life, even those we might (rightly) detest.
- This underlying dignity calls us to treat each person we encounter as a good neighbor and not an enemy—as much as this is possible.
- Due to original sin, we have a strong tendency to make rash judgments, that is, to interpret others’ thoughts, words, and deeds in an unfavorable way (CCC 2478).
- St. Ignatius of Loyola says something very important along these lines:
“Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.” (Spiritual Exercises 22, quoted in CCC 2478)
- This can be applied to another’s actions, as well.
A good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s action than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands that action. And if the latter understands it badly, correct him with love. If that is not enough, try all suitable ways show how the action was wrong so he may be saved.
- This kind of advice does not apply to egregious evils that a person or society must defend against but to our normal interactions with our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
- Our own words and actions can be wrong, be misunderstood, or cause friction. Just as we want others to be understanding to us and very gently correct us if we are wrong, we should extend the same respect to others.