Seek first the Kingdom of God
A Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Seek first the Kingdom of God
Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost
At the birth of Jesus the angels praised God singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men who enjoy his favor”. The peace is a gift related to the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
How can we have peace in the midst of all the difficulties of our life?
The sound eye
Peace starts inside our hearts. The first condition to reach peace is to have a sound eye, to look at things in the right way, which means to give to every thing its own value. “The lamp of the body is the eye. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness”. Jesus applies this principle to our relationship first of all to money, then to all the necessities of our life: eating, drinking, clothing, and finally to the future.
God and money
“No one can be the slave of two masters… You cannot be the slave both of God and of money”. To be the slave of someone means to look at him as the only savior, as the ultimate value, and to obey him in everything he commands us to do. We have to choose between God and money. Money is a good servant but a very bad master. Money must be our slave, to serve us in our needs, not our master to command us in our choices.
Peace or anxiety?
“Therefore I tell you, says Jesus, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, not about your body, what you shall put on”. And He gives the example of the birds in the sky and of the lilies growing in the fields. Our heavenly Father takes care of them. He will also take care of us his children. And He concludes: “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”
Our anxiety comes from the fact that we don’t have a sound eye: we don’t have a sound look at things: we consider money as the supreme value; and we don’t have a sound look at God: we don’t consider God as our loving Father who takes care of us.
Trust in God or play God
The remedy to our anxiety is to trust in God. The original sin, which is the source of all sins of human beings since the first man and woman called Adam and Eve, is to play God. The cause of our anxiety is that we don’t trust God, we don’t obey his commandment; instead we follow the temptation of the evil: “you will be like gods”, said the serpent to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5); we obey the orders of our shortsighted mind, and the manners of the world, which St. John summarizes in his first Letter as follows: “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (2:15). He adds: “And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (2:16).
To do the will of God: that is the meaning of Jesus’ saying in conclusion, “Seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.”
The pagan prayer and the Christian prayer
How is our prayer? Do we pray like pagans or like Christians? The pagans play God: they seek to change God’s mind, they ask him be on their side, to do their will. The Christians don’t try to take the place of God; they listen to God, they do His will and trust Him. He knows better than us what is good and what is bad. That is the meaning of “the tree of knowledge of good and bad.” If there is so much evil in the world it is not God’s fault. We are to blame. Jesus came to purify our eyes, to enlighten our hearts. Let us live as children of the light, as St. Paul says to the Romans:
“It is full time for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves decently as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery or licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (13:11-14).
In his encyclical letter “God is Love”, Pope Benedict XVI says on prayer:
“It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayers in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God’s plans or correct what He has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing Him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for His creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defense of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?” (Nr. 37)
Jesus came to save us: that means to change our way to look at things, to give us His mind, and to change our behavior in our relationship with God and with our neighbor. If we follow Him we will have peace inside our hearts; and from inside the peace of Christ will shine to outside: in our families, in our parish and in the whole world.