Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, March 2, 2014, God's Dream for the World, Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ

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St. Mary of the Angels   Sunday OT 8 A  3/2/14

Isaiah 49.14-15;   I Corinthians  4.1-5;   Matthew 6.24-34

 

My Brothers and Sisters,

 

In the Gospel today, six times Jesus asks his disciples and us: why are you anxious or says to us: “Do not worry.”  Six times!

 

Could Jesus today tell the people of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or South Sudan, or Thailand, or the Ukraine not to worry or be anxious?  How can the people of those countries not worry and not be anxious?  Every day they must be asking:

  • Where will the next bomb explode?

  • How will we keep our children safe?

  • Where will I find food today?

  • Are we heading into civil war?

  • Will there ever be peace again?

Can Jesus really tell them not to worry and not to be anxious?

 

Closer to home, parents in our neighborhood must worry about their children getting involved with gangs and with drugs.  On these bitter cold and stormy winter nights, the homeless must worry about shelter and warmth.  And more and more poor in our country worry about placing food on the table for their children.

Can Jesus really tell them not to worry and not to be anxious?

 

Jesus’ Disciples and Matthew’s Community

 

Before we answer that question, we need to go back and look at the disciples whom Jesus was speaking to and look at the Christian community for whom Matthew was writing.

 

You will remember that when Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the good news of the beginning of the reign of God, he sent them out with explicit instructions:  “Do not take gold or silver for your belts, no sack for your journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.” (Mt. 10.9)  Jesus knew that in all the places they would visit there would be homes to receive them and hosts to feed them.  And when Jesus himself travelled with his disciples, he knew that he could count of the generosity of men and especially of women who travelled with Him.  To his disciples, therefore, Jesus could truthfully say: do not worry and do not be anxious. 

 

When Matthew quoted Jesus’ words, he was writing for his Jewish-Christian community.  God’s dream for our world was then and is now that communities of love and care, flowing out of Jesus’ life and example and confirmed by his death and resurrection, would multiply and spread and fill the world.  Each such community would be another seed planted in the growing reign of God, a reign of justice, love and compassion.  We glimpse such communities in the Acts of the Apostles where we read, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide among all according to each one’s need. …  They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.  And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  (AA. 2.44-47)

 

The Lost Dream

 

German theologian, Gerhard Lohfink comments: “If  the selfless self-surrendering agape  [of those early communities] whose source is in Jesus were truly lived within the countless Christian communities, the world would be unrecognizable.” (No Irrelevant Jesus p.74) 

 

Alas, as we all know, God’s dream faded as the Church emerged from the catacombs in the fourth century and grew and grew into a richly structured institution contesting with kings and queens for power and prestige.  Greed and selfishness replaced love and care.  God’s reign of justice, love and compassion came against the ever present power of Mammon which keeps trying to derail God’s dream.

 

Recovering the Dream

 

So, how do we recover God’s dream?  We have to keep discerning our choices both as individuals and as a community.  God keeps inviting us to plant seeds of love and care in our community.  God keeps inviting us to look at others and be willing to make sacrifices. Mammon, on the other hand, keeps seducing us into wanting more for ourselves: more security, more pleasures, newer clothes, more up-to-date technology.   Mammon keeps urging us to be self focused and self indulgent.  Who rules our hearts: God or Mammon?The good news is that St. Mary of the Angels has a long history of trying to care and provide for one another and beyond.  The not-so-good news is that we still do not go down deep enough and reach out far enough in love and compassion, in forgiveness and reconciliation.  Why are we not home to more people? 

 

Answering the Question    

 

Now, back to our question: can Jesus today say, “Do not be anxious, do not  worry?”  I think that He can say that only where there is a Christian community of love to hold and cherish those who are most anxious and most  fearful.  But, where are those loving Christian communities in our world?

 

We come to St. Mary of the Angels each week so as to become more and more that loving Christian community as once was in the early Church.  We come here each Sunday so that we may, in the words of the responsorial psalm, find our rest in God alone,  and we gather each week at the Eucharistic table to feed our hearts on the body and blood of Christ so as to have the strength and courage to bring to existence right here, in this community, God’s dream for the world.

 

God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the wild flowers in the field, but God expects us, out of love, to provide for the needs of one another.  Then, we need not be anxious or afraid.

 

 

                                                              Kenneth J. Hughes, SJ

                                                              Brighton, Mass.  3/2/14

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