In today’s Gospel that we just heard, what did Jesus mean when He said, “No one can be a slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave of both God and of money.”
I am not surprised if many of us have a wrong impression that God is not happy with our riches or worse still, some of us may think that God is giving us an ultimatum of either we choose Him as God or choose money and forget about Him! If our thoughts lead us to think in this way, then we have distorted the truth of who God truly is for us.
God is not against money, but is against us being a “slave” of money and being pre-occupied with the materialistic concerns of life. But, if we reflect on our lives more deeply, we will find that God has actually been spoiling us “rotten” in that He has been caring for us and loving us totally and unconditionally. In our First Reading, Israel complained, “the Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Are not such complaints typical of our complains too . . . do we not complain and even get upset and angry with God for not answering our needs in life?
There is a story of young professional, Dave who got very upset with God, when his career was not advancing as fast as he wanted it to, even though he was doing quite well . . . so, when he came across a young boy who had no food and no shoes, he felt even more angry with God and went up to him and remarked, “If God loves you, why is he not sending you food and shoes? Why is He not answering your prayers?” The boy replied, “Sir, God told someone, but he keeps forgetting.” (adapted George Buttrick).
Like Dave, many of us tend to make unnecessary and often unreasonable demands on God . . . we expect God to give us the promotion we are looking for, wipe away all our worries, solve all our problems in life and even send us the spouse we dream to have . . . we seem to have the impression that if God is real, then there should no longer be any more pains and trials in life.
So, in today’s First Reading, God’s gentle response to all of Israel’s complains is, “Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.” Moreover, the Responsorial Psalm today further affirms, “In God alone is my soul at rest . . . He alone is my rock, my stronghold, my fortress . . . my hope comes from Him . . . He is my safety and glory, the rock of my strength . . . take refuge in Him and trust in Him at all times.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ, as today’s Word of God urges us to trust in God more fully, it might be helpful for us to note that there are different types of anxieties in life because some are helpful while others are not. It is normal anxiety when we encounter dangers in our lives like when we are driving too fast and almost meet with an accident . . . or when we are waiting for the results of our medical reports. Moderate anxiety can be desirable and healthy, because it helps us avoid dangerous situations and live a more prudent and moderate life.
However, neurotic anxiety is an exaggerated feeling of dread even when the threat is mild and non-existent. Such intense anxieties can produce physical harm like ulcers, headaches, high blood pressure and other stress-related diseases. Moreover, such psychological and medical states can prevent us from relating with others in the wholesome and Christ-like way that God wills of us.
The poem that I wish to share with you may help us to look at the trials and pains of our lives from a different perspective.
My life is but a weaving, between my God and me.
I do not choose the colours of my weaving,
because it is He, my God who does the weaving.
As He weaves steadily and daily,
often times, He weaves in sorrow . . .
And, I in my foolish pride,
forgets that He, as God, sees the upper side,
while I see the underside.
Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttle cease to fly,
will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why,
the dark threads are as needful in the skilful Weaver’s Hand
as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
(Adapted from Anonymous)
Jesus in today’s Gospel tell us, “Surely, life means more than food and the body more than clothing . . . Can any of you, for all his worrying, add a single cubit to his span of life? . . . look at the birds in the sky . . . and the flowers in the fields . . . not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these . . . So, do not worry . . . Your Father knows your needs . . . set your hearts on the Kingdom first . . . and on His righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if God had answered all the prayers especially those that I wished for in my youth . . . I have no doubts that I would not be a Jesuit priest today . . . Looking back and reflecting on the past 30 years as a Jesuit and 20 years as a priest . . . I can see more clearly why God did not answer many of my prayers especially the prayers of my youth . . . I was then impressionable and immature.
If God had answered my prayers . . . I would have probably acquired many things in life . . . but, not necessarily developed a more meaningful and fulfilling life . . . I would probably have been tempted by the materialistic lures of the secular world and could have likely, as Jesus in today’s Gospel tells us, “become a slave” to the material needs and concerns of life . . .
And so as I conclude, let us be reminded that as God has created us out of His deep love for us, He will always give us the very “best” of everything we need. And, if God does not seem to be answering our prayers . . . then we have to dare to trust in His Wisdom to give us what we need in His Time and in His Ways as the hymn has it.
In His time, in His time.
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You’re teaching me You way
That You do just what You say
In Your time!
Lord, my life to You I bring,
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing
In Your time.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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