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The Grace of Abandonment
Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, your teaching is clear in this passage, yet it can be very hard not to worry. Please help me to receive the peace you intend to give me as I contemplate your promises in Scripture today.
- No Worries: “If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient,” St. Therese of Lisieux said, “but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to second-guess the future.” Even in a quiet convent, this saint struggled not to worry about what was going to happen, so it’s understandable that you and I would battle the temptation to be anxious even more than she did. But maybe humans haven’t changed that much. People in Jesus’s time also worried about having enough food, clothing, or money to provide for the future. To those around him two thousand years ago and to us now, Jesus says, “Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ … Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” God wants us to be prudent, to plan, and to pay our bills. But Jesus never guaranteed that we would be well-fed, well-dressed, or well-provided for. In fact, he promised blessings to “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” His disciples preached wearing just one ragged tunic and were told by Jesus not to “bring a second tunic.” He said, “Blessed are the poor.” Many saints grew in holiness when they suffered hunger, disgrace, or poverty. Although he didn’t promise us all the material goods we could ask for, Jesus did promise that we would be fed with the Bread of Heaven. He promised that our robes would one day be washed white in his blood. He promised that we would never be tested beyond our strength, that we would be provided with enough grace to overcome whatever temptation came. What more do we need?
- Who Is Our Master?: Today’s Gospel challenges us to ask ourselves, “Who is our master: God or mammon?” If we worry too much about money, we will miss out on God’s action in our lives. If we concern ourselves with God, we may lack money, but we will never lack the graces we need. Wealth is not a measure of our spiritual standing. There are poor people who lived for money or popularity. And there are wealthy people for whom God was their one love, their joy, and their trust. Detachment from mammon is a matter of the heart.
- Putting God First: If you’re reading this, it’s easy to assume that God comes first in your life, not a mammon of material worries. However, putting God first is not a “one and done” proposition, even for the holiest among us. Putting God first in our lives is the highest form of spiritual combat. But what do we do if we find we just can’t abandon ourselves to God? Jacques Phillippe, quoting Marthe Robbins, says, “Abandon yourself anyway!” He adds, “Abandonment is not natural. It’s a grace to be asked of God” (Searching for and Maintaining Peace, p. 40).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, it is a giant struggle within me to try to detach from material goods and put you first in all things. I can do this only with your grace. Please protect me from self-sufficiency and help me to rely only on you to provide what really matters in life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will trust in you with all my heart when anxiety threatens to disturb my peace.
For Further Reflection: Searching for and Maintaining Peace, by Jacques Phillippe.
Father Simon Cleary, LC, is the chaplain at Mano Amiga Academy in the Philippines. The school provides underprivileged children programs that promote values formation, skills and health development, and other services tailored to the needs of the community. Visit www.manoamigaph.org to learn more.