“No one can serve two masters.” This is Jesus’ opening statement in this Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew. What is Jesus telling us? What is it we need to be wary of? Jesus goes on to tell us that we “cannot serve God and mammon” (mammon — Aramaic for wealth or property). Yet He understands that as humans we have some basic needs that necessitate us having wealth and property and is not against it. Rather His warning is that we should be careful not to be enslaved by such materialistic things. In other words, foregoing all else in the pursuit of all things, to the exclusion of all that truly matters.
We are told not to worry, to have faith and believe. We are asked to trust that all that we need will be given to us. One of the most debilitating aspects of our humanness is our ability to allow doubt and fear to become road blocks, inhibiting our growth. This undue stress and worry, keeps us from becoming who we are meant to be; the person God sees and wants us to be, and the potential that lies within. Jesus emphasizes that nature is abundantly provided for, yet it does no work. Reminding us that if God can do so much for the birds, fields and flowers, how much more can He do and want for us? We are all children of God and are deserving of His abundant mercy and love. Besides Jesus asks, “Can worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?”
When we hold onto our doubts and fears, we block out what is good and meaningful in our lives. How often have we missed out on an opportunity, or did not venture forward, because fear was holding us back? This fear is what Jesus is talking about, and what causes us to hold onto material things, lest we have nothing later on. We become slaves to our fears and doubts, and lose focus of what is right in front of us. We allow our worries to create a wedge in our relationship with God and the promises of His Kingdom.
Jesus tells us to not worry about tomorrow, to focus on the here and now. Looking at our own lives, how often have all the plans and preparations that we made been totally thrown out the window the next day? For any of you who have suffered a major loss or upheaval in your lives, you fully understand the magnitude of what this means. One moment everything is going well and according to plan, and the next we are hurled into a topsy-turvy world, where nothing makes sense. Situations that remind us that tomorrow is not a guarantee, and that whatever happens is literally beyond our control, so why lose sleep over it? However, there are times and events in our lives that we must prepare for in advance, God knows this, and fully understands. The key is to not lose sight of the Kingdom of God, living lives that are righteous, and leading others to the promises as well; while keeping it all in perspective.
The most essential message of this Gospel is to have faith, to believe, and to fully trust that we are being taken care of. We are asked to lead by example, and to live lives that bring glory to God, Our Father. This is the last Sunday before we begin our Lenten journey, a time to reflect on our lives and what we need to do to continue our Spiritual growth. This is a time to let go of whatever burdens are keeping us from God’s love and abundance, and to allow our spirits to soar.
During this season of Lent, we are asked to sacrifice, to give up something dear to us. Many will give up favorite foods and beverages, others will opt to do more almsgiving, or to offer up forgiveness more readily. Whatever a person decides to do requires a change — a change in habits, dietary preferences, and more conscientious living; this is a time when we often become very aware of our self-centeredness. We begin to realize that we have placed importance on the “mammon” in our lives, instead of what brings God praise and glory.
Therefore, we must scrutinize our lives and honestly look at what “master” we have chosen to serve. Is our choice bringing us joy and fulfillment or is it leaving us afraid and in doubt? Do we let go of what blocks us or do we choose to hide behind it? As we prepare for Lent and the death of Christ Jesus, let us look to our own lives, and ask ourselves: “Am I of little faith? Do I let worry, doubt and fear control my life?” The most important thing for us to remember is to be completely honest with ourselves. To approach Lent from the viewpoint that this is the perfect time to mend the gaps in our relationship with God, to remove things that impede the flow of His love and mercy, letting His abundance pour into our lives. A time to break the bonds that enslave us, and to fully trust the promises that Jesus made to us, when He chose to take up the cross bearing the weight of our sins. Remembering to put our “trust in Him at all times, pouring out our hearts before Him” (Ps 62:8-9).
Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren. firstname.lastname@example.org