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XIV Sunday after Pentecost

Epistle: Galatians 5:16-24
Gospel: Matthew 6:24-33

Collect: Guard Thy Church, we beseech Thee, O Lord, with Thy continual kindness; and, because without Thee human frailty falleth, let it, by Thine assistance, ever be both withheld from harm and guided to what is salutary. 

Sometimes I am weighed down with regret over how I have squandered the time, means, and opportunities which God has offered to me, my wasted hours, lost chances and frittered gifts. When I remember that I am a Christian and a child of a loving Father, I remind myself of Our Lord’s words today in the consoling Gospel passage for this Sunday.

Christ teaches us that this life is passing and that the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness surpass all our successes and all the goods and beautiful things of this world. God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows what we truly need in the most fundamental sense of need, not just our wants or desires with a limited earthbound vision.

Christ doesn’t just teach this, as if offering a suggestion. He commands it. “Do not be anxious/worried” about your food, drink and clothing, the material basics of life. Above all material things, “seek” first and foremost God’s kingdom and righteousness. In the Greek the Lord uses imperatives, the command form of verbs, “Be not anxious!” “Seek!” The English translations are straight forward and accurate, by and large, but they lack the punch of the Greek.

When you preview this week’s readings and orations before you participate at Mass on Sunday, you will now hear the force of those commands in whatever English version is read before the sermon.

To be clear, “Be not anxious!” and “Seek first!” do not translate into “Abandon the duties of your state in life!” We must still carry on with our lives in this shifting world, to earn a living, pay our bills, provide for our loved ones. We must still work and even toil, for that is our lot since the Fall of our First Parents. However, in the new Covenant we have in the Incarnate Word, through His fulfillment of and transformation of the Law, which Paul helps us to understand was mired in the “flesh,” the worldly and passing, when we seek after the material means for our lives, we seek them precisely as means and not as ends. Anxiety about earthly means gives way to our trust in God and the hope of the Beatific Vision, a satisfaction so great that even Our Lord seems to be at a loss to describe it with human language.

Be not anxious! First and foremost, seek the Kingdom and righteousness. It is a simple formula for happiness, if truth be told. It is hard in practice because we suffer from the effects of Original sin, our bad habits, and the attacks of the Enemy of the soul. But consider this. While it may be difficult to add to our worldly riches, is it really that hard to make spiritual gains? By toil we can gain some economic advantages, but by grace and spiritual efforts we can gain and increase in merits for Heaven and eternal happiness. How hard is it, really? Examine your conscience. Go to confession. Receive the Eucharistic Lord at Mass. Give petitions, thanks and honor to God in prayer. Do your duty in your state in life. Perform meritorious good works, especially works of mercy. It’s not complicated. Just do it.

We can fall into a trap of thinking that if we cannot live lives of heroic virtues like the beautiful saints whom we venerate, then why try? When we ponder our past and our failures, we can become despondent, enervated. That’s precisely what the Enemy wants, for us to stop trying.

There is a phrase from a mediocre book by Bernard Malamud, turned into a great baseball movie, The Natural. Roy Hobbs, down and wounded, regrets his past. His redemptive character, the woman he loved when he was young and before he made stupid, life-changing mistakes, says to him that we have two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live afterward.

Believe in Christ’s promises. When you stumble and fall, get over yourself, get up and get back to work.

Our Savior directs our attention to the lilies of the field. So beautiful. So quickly gone. He reminds us of the brief span of our lives. Will it be another day? Longer? Less? A minute is more than enough for anyone to gain Heaven. Why, then, does God prolong our lives? Why does he permit long sufferings and trials? God is not satisfied with merely having us in Heaven. He wishes us to mount higher and higher and to increase our joy even more with Him forever.

As a practical point, even the least works have their merit for eternal life. What can be easier than to perform corporal works of mercy? Each time we have an opportunity to perform a work of mercy, no matter how small, Christ Himself is offering us a hand up toward Heaven. Of ourselves, we do nothing. With Him, we accomplish much. He gives us the work. He helps us desire it. He makes our hands strong for it. He brings it to completion. Hence, the works are truly ours, but they are truly His and His merits make them meritorious in our doing. The great Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine of Hippo (+430), said that Christ crowns his own merits in us. Even the commonplace aspects of our lives, eating, ironing, walking, washing, mowing, are openings for the Kingdom and righteousness. If we do these things according to the requirements of our state of life, in the grace of God and to His honor and glory, walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh, as the Apostle to the Gentiles says today, they, too, will be deemed meritorious for eternal glory.

“Be not anxious!” “Seek!” Let us be sorry for the time and opportunities we have squandered, for the many grievous sins of commission and omission by which we forfeited all claim to Heaven. God repairs our losses. There is no better moment to resolve to redouble our daily good works, to offer them for the glory of God, than right now.

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