We will never be abandoned nor forsaken by God

  • February 16, 2011
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Feb. 27 (Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34)

All God-language is metaphorical and symbolic, for God cannot be described or contained within any word or concept. In the Gospels Jesus routinely employs similes, metaphors and symbols, using everyday images to give hints and suggestions of the nature of God’s Kingdom. Symbolic modes of speech are useful for sketching the divine in very broad terms.

At the same time, however, these words are incomplete and inadequate and we cannot help but stand speechless before the divine reality. Isaiah does not shrink from using feminine and maternal images in speaking of God. The people of Israel were feeling rather alone and abandoned during their exile in Babylon. They are in need of comfort, hope and reassurance. To Israel’s lament that she has been forsaken by God Isaiah’s prophecy responds with the image of a woman nursing a child — an image of love, tenderness and sustenance. It is unthinkable that a woman would be lacking in compassion, love and concern for her infant — that is a given. And if a woman displays such feelings and care to her infant, how could we even entertain the thought that God would do any less? In fact, God’s goodness and compassion far exceeds all human categories.

This passage stands in stark contrast to the “blood and thunder” passages of the Old Testament that its critics are fond of bringing up. This emphasizes the importance of looking at the Scriptures in their entirety and avoiding snap judgments and stereotypes. But this passage also teaches us far more: We are never forsaken or abandoned by God regardless of our circumstances or situation. God will continue to show more compassion and care to us than even a mother.

People are quick to judge others and at times even quicker to judge themselves. Paul is warding off accusations and judgments that some rebellious members of the Corinthian community are throwing at him. He refrains from even judging himself and he insists that in the end only God can judge. But the light that the Lord brings lays bare the hidden things in our hearts — a frightening thought! This can be the bearer of shock and consternation as we are made to realize that there is good in those thought to be wicked and there is darkness and evil hidden in apparently virtuous hearts. No one is really in a position to judge another and when we do so we judge ourselves.

The earliest Christians considered double-mindedness or a divided heart a serious sin. Such an attitude was akin to lukewarm or insincere worship of God and it effectively hindered God’s compassionate power from working on our behalf. Serving two masters ensures that we never serve either one of them really well. Jesus uses images of birds and flowers to illustrate His point. The birds and flowers are well provided for without any worry on their part. They receive God’s benevolent blessings unasked. How much more this applies to human beings, who are worth far more than birds and flowers. Many might question such wisdom, insisting that it is simplistic and unrealistic in the real world. After all, the paycheque does not arrive without extreme effort on our part and there are tons of bills to be paid.

But note carefully, Jesus does not say that no effort is required of us for even the birds still have to search tirelessly for their food. What is absent is worry — mostly because it is absolutely useless. It does not have the power to change anything and in the end it is usually counterproductive. Worry is a paralysing form of fear and most of the time our fears are blown out of proportion. The advice Jesus offers is as applicable now as then: focus on today, that is all we can really handle anyway. Tomorrow may never come, but if it does, there will be more than enough to struggle with so don’t borrow trouble.

For Jesus the most important principle is to strive for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. If that is one’s primary concern in life everything else will fall into place at the appropriate time. We should work as if everything depends on us but our attitude should be that everything depends on God.

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