NAMING THE KINGDOM
HOMILY – 8th SUNDAY [A] 2017 [Matthew 6:24-34]
In today’s social and economic climate that expects people to take responsibility for their own welfare, the challenge that Jesus gives when he says that “Surely life means more than food and drink and the body more than clothing”, doesn’t make much sense. How can we live without food and drink; how can we survive without the protection of clothing?
His meaning became clearer for me in a news item this week. The headline read, World is nothing without my dog, and told the story of a woman disabled from birth finding a purpose through the loyal companionship of her dog – to the point where she has willingly gone into debt to have accommodation that accepts animals. Her life means more than food and drink!
Such an illustration can prompt us all to consider what exactly gives life value. Jesus does not say we don’t need food and drink or clothes or other material things; but he puts the question, Is that what gives life substance, security?
A A Milne’s famous classic, Winnie the Pooh, gives us this from Piglet: “And then he gave a very long sigh and said, ‘I wish Pooh were here. It’s so much more friendly with two.’” Companionship is certainly part of the answer about what gives life meaning. But no partnership, human or animal, lasts forever. Eventually we are on our own. What then?
That’s the point Jesus is making. Set your hearts on the kingdom of God first – and you’ll find your other needs will fall into place. So, what’s this kingdom? Look at where the life of Jesus is leading you: his lifestyle is simple, yet he doesn’t go without; he is fair and honest in his dealing with others; he doesn’t judge or condemn others, but looks for the good in everyone.
In this kingdom love takes precedence over privilege and shows itself in service and in the generous sharing of resources. If this sounds too idealistic then look at the human response to tragedies like our recent earthquakes and fires that destroyed homes livelihoods. Look at our own local response to the foodbank appeal, refugee resettlement, the Caritas Lenten appeal. It is within our nature to reach out and help; to join together and eliminate isolation and the fear it brings. The kingdom of God is among us in these actions.
Jesus says don’t lose sight of this inner desire to help. It is God-given, and an assurance of a power that will never abandon us if we trust and play our part. The prophet Isaiah uses the most intimate and significant of all relationships – that between a mother a child – to reinforce this truth. Even if the unthinkable happens – a woman forgetting the child she has brought to birth – God will never forget you, or me.
Hold that truth as we enter the season of Lent this week, and make whatever adjustments need in your lifestyle to enable you to put the kingdom of God first.