•Isaiah 49: 14-15 * I Corinthians 4: 1-5 * Matthew 6: 24-34•
Weekly Scripture Readings: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Since my ordination I have always devoted a considerable amount of time to homily preparation. Today in senior status, I continue to do so, but wonder if I would be embarrassed by what I wrote or said concerning a particular passage in that ten-year span following my ordination, or even five or six years ago for that matter.
This is the fifth Sunday we have been contemplating segments from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Recently I studied a very different and insightful commentary on these texts.
I have always understood that the written gospels, including the Sermon on the Mount, were addressed “globally” to the world in general. Over the years my homilies reflect that understanding.
Because of contemporary Scripture scholarship, I am beginning to appreciate I was misguided. If as biblical scholars now tell us, the sayings of Jesus were not directed to the crowds who gathered around him but to the disciples who were constantly on the road with him, that changes how you and I hear this text.
The disciples probably did not know in the morning where they would eat or sleep that night. Jesus probably recognized their anxiety and so admonishes them, “Do not worry, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
That is good advice for all of us. But supposing you live in Michigan and two houses on your city block are being destroyed by a sink-hole. It would be irresponsible to apply this text to you and urge you “do not worry! God will take care of you.”
Obviously you have to take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors. You need to watch the bank balance, fill the refrigerator and pay the water, heating and electric bills. Life in modern America requires the application of wisdom, prudence and careful planning.
If the scholars are correct, as I trust they are, then Matthew’s gospel continues to leave me confused. The text says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them” — “them” being his disciples.
The disciples were the center of his “reign of God” project. They were the yeast that was to leaven the whole lump. Jesus urges them to trust in God and live with insecurity.
Still the text leaves me slightly confused because of it’s conclusion. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, ”the crowds” were astounded at his teaching, for he taught “them” with authority — “them” being “the crowds.”
Those in “the crowds” were receptive and enthusiastic about Jesus and his teaching. He intuitively knew those in “the crowds” would welcome the disciples into their homes and feed them. Perhaps that is why he told his disciples, “do not worry” about it.
Today we are the ones who are receptive and enthusiastic about Jesus and his teaching. We are “the crowds.”
So what is this text saying to us? Perhaps it is a simple reminder. Perhaps it is reminding us to welcome into our homes and feed those who are anxious about where they will find shelter, clothing or food. I ask you to think about that. Today we name those forced to live with so much anxiety — “refugees.” This text challenges us to welcome refugees into our homes and feed them.