Saturday, February 25, 2017

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 49:14-15
Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
1 Cor 4:1-5
Mt 6:24-34

Today's Gospel raises the topic of free will and priorities. Our priorities determine the choices we make. They decide what we hold closest to our hearts.  Our priorities determine how we live and how we treat those with whom we live and work. 

A young father who plays golf sixteen hours every weekend and ignores his three children, can be accused of misplaced priorities.  A woman who complains she has no money but puts a ten-day cruise on her credit card, can be accused of misplaced priorities.  A university student who spends the weekend drinking rather than studying for the organic chemistry final, can be accused of misplaced priorities. We all need an occasional reality check  during which we ask ourselves,  “What ARE my priorities?”  Ideally we ask ourselves this question  before someone--a parent, a spouse, a teacher, or a friend--is screaming it at us.  

In the first reading Paul is expressing his indifference to the opinions others have of him and his work.  Their opinion is not going to force him to change his priorities to suit their needs.  They can't exert enough pressure to make his priorities fit with their ideology. He is confident in his role as a steward of God’s mysteries.  He knows he will be judged at the appointed time.  Paul was never one to confuse his priorities.  He knew them. He held them firmly.  He was unwilling to compromise in the face of criticism.  He did not waver at the threat of prison.  He was indifferent to all things except the saving act of Jesus on the cross.  That was his first priority. It determined all of Paul's other priorities.

There is nothing subtle about the gospel.  Some of the images are wonderfully poetic.  The comparison of Solomon’s clothing to that of a lily is particularly fine. These images make an important point that supports what Jesus is teaching.

“You cannot serve both God and mammon”—mammon written with a lower case m rather than upper case.  Mammon is a problematic word.  Mammon is not a personification of satan.  Mammon is not an independent small g 'god.'  The word mammon comes from the ancient Chaldean root meaning confidence or trust.  “What do you trust in?”  “Where do you place your confidence?”  It requires little linguistic manipulation to rephrase the questions as, “What are your priorities?” 

Love and hate represents another translation problem in this Gospel. As used here 'love' and 'hate' do not indicate the emotions with which we are familiar. They are used in the biblical sense, a use that means 'to choose' and 'not to choose,' or, 'to choose' and 'to reject.'  Here love and hate indicate the difference between what we pay attention to and what we ignore.   We can only give undivided attention to one master.  We cannot split our affection or devotion.  It is one or the other.  Once more we confront the question of priorities.

Jesus’ advice, “do not be anxious” about what you eat or what you wear is not only for the wealthy. The poor are as capable as the wealthy of misplacing their priorities, of being overly concerned with how they look, how they dress, and what they have or don’t have.  They are simply working within a smaller budget. 

Jesus is telling his listeners to adopt the Ignatian characteristic of indifference. 
St. Ignatius wrote the following about it: “Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things as far as we are allowed free choice . . . .we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.  The same holds for all other things. . . ” 

Can we become indifferent to what we eat?  Can we maintain indifference toward  our bodies?  Can we be indifferent to the car we drive even when our neighbor has a brand new Mercedes? 

Shortly after entering the Society a Jesuit novice learns the Suscipe.  Ideally it is part of his daily prayer and gives shape to how he lives, works and spends his free time.

“Take Lord, and receive,
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, my entire will;
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me, to You, Lord, I return it.
Everything is Yours, do with it what You will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace.
That is enough for me." 

The Suscipe brings us back to the psalm.

“Only in God is my soul at rest;

from him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold;
I shall not be disturbed at all.  . .
Trust in him at all times, O my people!

Pour out your hearts before him."

Today was the Carnival Parade in LJ.  It is going to take many hours to go through the 800 photos I took.  Many will be discarded of course but many others will get processed.  Others will be kept but not worked on just yet.  I was out for three hours on one of the most beautiful days we've had.  Friday was heavy rain that changed into snow.  When I woke this AM the sun was glorious.  Temp went to mid-40s F but with no wind and full sun it seemed warmer than that.  Town was packed for the parade.  The photos below are all of flowers.  

Slovenians love flowers.  There are multiple flower seller stalls in the outdoor market regularly.  Most of the are clustered around the cathedral.  I shot most of these looking straight down into the bundles. After what was a prolonged period of gray, rain, fog, and mist the color was most welcome.  

No need to describe.  Simply meant to be enjoyed. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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