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Lectio Divina - Sunday, February 26th, 2017

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Sunday, February 26th, 2017
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading from Matthew 6:24-34

God and Possessions

(Luke 16.13; 12.22-31)

24“You cannot be a slave of two masters; you will hate one and love the other; you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25“This is why I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn't life worth more than food? And isn't the body worth more than clothes?26Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren't you worth much more than birds?27Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?

28“And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves.29 But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers.30It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won't he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have!

31“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things.33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.

Other Readings:

Isaiah 49:14-15, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Lectio

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.” God and money. Two masters. You can serve one or the other but not both. Why? Jesus teaches in a culture based on the economic principle of limited goods. There is only so much of any one thing, including money. When it is gone it cannot be replaced. If I have two pieces of pie that means you cannot have any. Jesus cautions his disciples (the word is taken from the Greek for “student”) that they cannot serve God and money. Money is a limited good. God is unlimited and thus requires and rewards all your attention. Money is spent and gone. God’s gifts never cease and are new every morning. Jesus continues by counseling his disciples to avoid anxiety. He issues them a challenge by asking them who can add a single moment to life by worry. We are directed to learn from the birds in the sky that do not sow or reap, and from the flowers in the field that do not work or spin. Each is cared for by God and we could not number them if we tried. It is worth noting that Israel is on a migration route between Europe and Africa. This teaching would resonate with the listeners as Galilee is a popular resting location for migratory birds. Each spring, the fields of Galilee produce rich grasses and abundant wildflowers—color as far as the eye can see, drawing in vast numbers of birds of all shapes and sizes. God creates and cares for all of them, and we are even more precious in God’s eyes. When the flowers fade, the stalks are cut and stored for fuel in the winter months. God provides all of this for us, the people Jesus calls those “of little faith.” God’s creation never stops giving. His provision is unlimited and apparently undeserved. Disciples are challenged to seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. Seeking righteousness means living in a way that is pleasing to God. We learn to trust in God’s care and provision. In this way, Jesus’s followers will be a witness to a watching world that we are cared for by a source of unlimited love.

Meditatio

“You of little faith”: But what is biblical faith? Dr. Billy Graham has defined biblical faith in three distinct stages. First there is the faith of knowledge. Then there is the faith of belief. Finally is the faith of trust. Jesus here challenges us to reach this third level in our lives. Jesus used this same turn of phrase to challenge and encourage Peter after he got out of the boat and walked on the sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:31). Jesus encourages us in the same way. We need to grow up and mature in our understanding of and practice of faith. Dr. Graham illustrates his point with a story of a young couple who honeymooned at Niagara Falls. One day, the couple saw a poster advertising that Marcel would ride a bicycle on a tightrope across the falls that very afternoon. Dr. Graham equated knowledge of the event with the first part of his biblical definition of faith. The second part, belief, came when the couple attended the show and saw the spectacle unfold. They were impressed. They believed. But something is still missing. We have not arrived at faith’s third stage: trust. Marcel reminded the couple that they knew he could ride a bike across the falls. They believed he could do so because they saw him do it, but they would not trust that he could ride the tightrope until they accepted his invitation to get on the handlebars themselves and ride across the falls with him. That is what Jesus wants for his disciples. Those of little faith need to take that third step of trusting God, today.

Oratio

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3) Father, give us this kind of faith. Faith that can move mountains and uproot trees so that we can live in your constant presence and know of your constant care.

Contemplatio

“But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself …” (Matthew 6:34) Sit with these two verses and allow the Spirit to speak to you today. Remind yourself that the present is a gift that can only be opened today, and that no one is promised tomorrow. Know that God delights in being your provider. Ask him for all that you need today, your daily bread. And remember to offer him thanks.
Kevin Saunders is a Catholic Bible teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. His popular Bible class can be found online at ArizonaBibleClass.com.

About Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a weekly framework for a faithful and respectful reading of the Bible, coordinated with the Catholic lectionary calendar.

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