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Rock, Salvation, Stronghold...
by Stephen Bevans, SVD | February 23, 2017
ROCK, SALVATION, STRONGHOLD…
A Reflection for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 26, 2017: Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
There are several ways to avoid making the big decisions in our lives. On the one hand we “hedge our bets.” Yes, we want to answer God’s call, but we also want to make sure that if that is too difficult we can get out of our commitment. Or we can procrastinate—I’ll wait a little longer to propose to my girlfriend, or to enter grad school, or to apply for the seminary or a religious order. We have a tendency to want it both ways.
What Jesus says in today’s gospel, though, is that we can’t. Neither of these strategies is a good one—you can’t serve two masters! Ultimately we have to choose. In the end, not to choose is really to choose—or drift into a dead end.
What Jesus also says, however, is that if we do choose what we know in our heart is the better choice, the one that is not about ourselves but about service and giving and relationship, things will take care of themselves. This is because choosing this way to live our lives is to choose the “kingdom of God.” If we choose the kingdom, all the ways we try to hedge our bets or try to hold on to—food, drink, clothing, security, happiness, freedom—will be ours as well.
This is Jesus’ claim, and it’s a pretty radical one. It’s also right at the heart of the gospel. If we give, we receive; if we lose ourselves we find ourselves, if we die we live. Don’t hedge your bets. Don’t drift. Don’t hold on to certainty. Take the plunge. Take the risk. You cannot serve God and mammon—in other words, anything less than God. So serve God.
Yes, serving God is a risk. But our readings today assure us that it is a risk well worth taking. Why? Because God is absolutely reliable, absolutely on our side. Because in the words of the great theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, “God’s cause is the human cause.” Amazingly, God is less interested in God’s self than God is in us, and all creatures. That’s what it means to be God.
Isaiah says this more poetically and powerfully: even if a mother would forget her child, God could never forget us. The responsorial psalm continues the poetry: “only in God is my soul at rest”; God alone is my rock, my salvation, my stronghold, my safety, my glory, my strength, my refuge. Trust in God at all times!
Indeed, as Jesus teaches in the gospel reading, God is totally trustworthy. We don’t need to worry about our life, or our daily needs. If God takes care of the birds in the sky, or lavishes beauty on simple wildflowers, we have nothing at all to worry about.
Should I get married? Should I take that new, challenging job? Should I apply to law school? Should I get more involved in my parish? Should I go on that “come and see” weekend? Should I take out a loan to study theology? All these are big questions, and big risks. But if we don’t take the risk, we’ll never know. We can’t serve two masters. We can’t have certainty and take risks at the same time. But we have a God who will never forget us, who takes care of little birds, the tiniest wildflowers, the most common blades of grass. So take the risk. Take the plunge. Seek first the kingdom of God.
Stephen Bevans, SVD
Steve Bevans is Professor Emeritus at Catholic Theological Union and the Faculty Moderator for Catholics on Call. He is a Roman Catholic priest in the Society of the Divine Word, an international missionary congregation, and served for nine years (1972-1981) as a missionary in the Philippines.
His publications include: Models of Contextual Theology (2002), Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (2004, with Roger Schroeder), Evangelization and Freedom (2009, with Jeffrey Gros), and Introduction to Theology in Global Perspective (2009).
He is past president of the American Society of Missiology (2006) and past member of the board of directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America (2007-2009). In 2009 he was visiting lecturer at Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2013 he was the only Catholic to speak at a Plenary at the Tenth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Korea.