8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Matthew 6:24-34
February 26, 2017
By Fr. Mike Lagrimas
ONE of the stories that we are most familiar with is about the grasshopper and the ant. While the ant was always busy carrying huge loads of food to be stored, the grasshopper was just jumping and playing around. When the rainy days came, the ant was safe and warm, and with abundant food, while the grasshopper was dying of cold and hunger.
This story gives us the lesson on prudence and foresight–saving for the rainy days, we say. It is truly laudable to earn and save, and to procure health and life insurance plans, to prepare for any eventuality in the future. Right now, people are already putting in sizable savings to their retirement funds. There is nothing wrong with this–as long as we always remember that there is life hereafter. The problem is that people seriously prepare for tomorrow, but only in this world, without any thought of eternal life. Many times, we see people committing fraud, violence and all sorts of immoral activities just to have more money and secure a luxurious retirement. The Lord warned, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16: 26).
There is a story about a man who has become very rich through sheer honest and hard work. However, later in life, he became extremely attached to his riches. He finally decided to convert all his possessions into diamonds and other precious stones. He then put them all in one bag so he can easily take it with him all the time. After some time, he got sick, but he held on to his bag until he died. He finally came to the gates of heaven, still holding the bag. St. Peter met him and said, “You were an honest man on earth. You can come in but you have to leave that bag outside.” “What?” the man protested. “This is the fruit of my honest labor. I cannot leave it behind.”
“Then”, St. Peter said, “you cannot enter heaven. You will have to go to the other place.” “But please,” he implored, “let me bring it in with me. I cannot be separated from it.” “No way,” Peter said firmly. “You have to choose: heaven without the bag, or have your bag in hell. But I am a little curious. Let me see what is inside that bag.” He looked at it, and seeing the diamonds and precious stones, said in disbelief, “You mean to say, you are willing to go to hell for sand and pebbles?” “What do you mean?” the man asked. “Well, you see,” St. Peter explained, “the sand and pebbles in heaven are diamonds and precious stones, and the roads and buildings here are made of gold and silver.”
Who still needs gold and diamonds in heaven, anyway? And besides, what we will see in heaven is infinitely beyond human imagination. That is what St. Paul said: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor 2: 10). This realization led him to conclude: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8: 18).
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus exhorts us to cast off all kinds of fears, anxieties and worries. He invites us to simply trust in the loving providence of the heavenly Father. God provides. He never fails. As the prophet Isaiah points out, even if a mother forgets her own child, God will never forget us. St. Paul said, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8: 32).
If we have enough faith in a God of love and providence, there really is nothing to worry about. Worrying is a sure sign of lack of faith. Jesus has made it very clear: “No man can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon.” The word mammon is often translated as money, but it is something more. The Hebrew root word for it means, “to entrust”. Mammon came to mean, “that in which a man places his trust” (cf. Barclay). It represents an idol, a false god. A person who puts his trust in mammon will always be anxious and worried, knowing that these material things do not last for long.
Worrying also reveals a defective understanding of the purpose of life. We are not here in this world to amass wealth and success. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” This is what St. Paul expressed in the second reading, reminding us that we are “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” As such, therefore, we ought to serve God, and not mammon. Rather, we use our mammon–all our material possessions–to faithfully serve God.
One Sunday morning, before going to church, little Teddy received two quarters from his mother. She instructed him, “One quarter is for God. Put it in the collection. The other one is for your ice cream after Mass.” As Teddy and his friends walked along, he was playing with the coins, flipping them up in the air and catching them. Unfortunately, at one time he missed to catch one coin and it rolled down the street and into an open drain. “Oh, damn!” he said. “Now I have nothing to give in the collection! That quarter was for God!”
Generosity is alien to a person who worries a lot. Somebody said, “Always borrow money from a pessimist. He does not expect to get it back.” Well, that is, if he ever lends money at all! Only a person who has strong faith in God can be generous. He knows that giving does not mean losing something, but gaining freedom, joy and peace. An unknown author said, “When you let me take, I’m grateful. When you let me give, I’m blessed.” In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi concluded, “For it is in giving that we receive, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
The Lord invites us to entrust ourselves completely to our heavenly Father, secure in His loving providence. He wants us to enjoy peace and happiness in life. St. Augustine discovered this peace, and said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” When trials and problems come, let us set our focus on God and say to ourselves the words in today’s Psalm: “Rest in God alone, my soul.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road
Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422
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