Grant us, O Lord, we pray, that the course of our world may be directed by Your peaceful rule and that Your Church may rejoice, untroubled in her devotion... Collect for the Eighth Sunday
Indivisible by Msgr Richard Henning
First Reading: Isaiah 49:14-15 Responsorial: Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:24-34
Is it possible to parcel out love? Can we love partially or part of the time and still call it love? Or is love one of those indivisible realities – present only if it is whole?
The central part of the Scroll of Isaiah is a work of remarkable consolation and encouragement. It reassured suffering exiles who could not imagine the circumstances that would deliver them from their loss. Against a temptation to despair, Isaiah proclaimed the mercy, deliverance, and tender care of the Lord. In the very brief passage that we hear today, Isaiah offers a beautiful comparison. If the people imagine themselves forgotten, Isaiah assures them of the tender love of Adonai. As a mother may never forget or cease to love her child, so the Lord loves His people.
There is no Psalm that echoes this confidence in Divine Providence with as much fervor as Psalm 62. God is rest, strength, refuge – and the people must “trust in Him at all times.”
It is no secret that St. Paul placed his trust in the Lord and His grace. From his conversion forward, every action of Paul involved devotion to a mission that was impossible by human power alone. Paul travelled without wealth or security of any kind. He faced danger and persecution, rejection and privation. He could not predict how he would be received, and yet he never failed to proclaim Christ boldly and passionately. He modeled trust in the Lord and his letters are filled with assertions of that trust – frequently in language as beautiful and intimate as we have heard from Isaiah and Psalm 62.
Even as we admire Paul’s trust in God, we might also notice that he took the risk of trusting others. As he established his Christian communities, he empowered local leadership. Paul then moved on to the next phase of his mission, trusting that they would carry forth the task of preaching the Gospel. His letters frequently mention co-workers and his affection for them.
The relationship between Paul and his Christians in Corinth was complex. The two letters in the New Testament give clear evidence of internal conflict among the Corinthian Christians – and some of that conflict appears to have incited criticism and even rejection of Paul’s authority and ministry. Such appears to be the case in this passage as Paul defends his authenticity and his accountability to God. He critiques his opponents in Corinth because their divisiveness demonstrates that their judgment is being exercised in purely human terms. Given that Paul was commissioned and sent by the Lord to preach the Gospel, they lack the capacity to pass judgment on him. But even in this moment of conflict, Paul retains a trust in this community. He does not order them to cease their proclamation of the Gospel – rather he argues against false ideas and teaches authentic faith so that they may continue in their call. He is trusting that they will listen and respond.
The passage from Matthew also counsels trust. It is deeply ingrained in human beings to seek security in material affairs. We work and plan to provide for our physical needs for nourishment, clothing, and protection from the elements. The sad truth is that this search for security is always in vain. Even should we grow materially wealthy, such wealth cannot deliver us from the ups and downs of life or from the finality of death. Nor can wealth secure us against the loss of love or the harm that we inflict upon one another. This passage reminds us that we delude ourselves if we imagine that we main purchase or achieve absolute security. In fact, life itself and all material possessions are first and foremost gifts from a loving God. And so we must decide to serve God or “mammon.” We must decide whether to live a life in humble gratitude to God or crave the illusion of material security.
In all of these readings, we see the truth that trust, like love, is indivisible. We cannot trust God when things are well and indulge our greed when we feel insecure. We cannot trust in some things or some of the time. Instead, our indivisible trust in God is the foundation of faith. It is the only proper response to this God Who loves with that tenderness of the mother who cannot forget her children indivisible trust in indivisible grace.