Wild Lectionary: A Way Without Fear

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Victoria Marie (blue) at the Break Free from Fossil Fuels action at the Burnaby Mountain, Kinder Morgan tank facility.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(many churches observe the Transfiguration this Sunday)

Isaiah 49:8-16
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6: 24-34

By Reverend Dr. Victoria Marie

Today I’m just going to touch on a few points in the Gospel reading in the hopes that they stimulate more thoughts and questions for all of us. To set the stage, look at the unrestrained resource extraction, our addiction to fossil fuels, and the consumerism that threatens to consume us and the earth. Yet, we all have to earn a living and unfortunately, some people have no other choice but to work for industries and systems that are killing us. We have been drafted into a system where we are trying to serve God but are enslaved by wealth; quite a dilemma! Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

A response to Sinclair is found in Jesus’ declaration, “you of little faith” because, fear and anxiety for what the future holds is a lack of faith on our part. In Jesus’ Plan for a New World, Richard Rohr says the opposite of faith is not doubt, but anxiety. If we are anxious and fearful, we lack faith.  Faith is the ability to trust that God is beneficent, that God will provide. Faith is the willingness to give up the driver’s seat and give God control. When we see ourselves as in charge of everything about ourselves and our surroundings, how could we help but feel anxious and insecure? Today’s Gospel is telling us that there is a way free of anxiety and fear; that we humans are to learn from other members of the Earth community how God takes care of his creation. Jesus is telling us that when we are in proper relationship with God, there is no reason for anxiety or fear since God supplies whatever is needed to live as a member of God’s kingdom.

I want to stress here, that Jesus is not talking about some kind of prosperity Gospel, with its demand for our continued complicity in counter-creation behaviour, when he says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Remember that “justice” is a truer translation of the Greek word [“dikaiosynē”] that is usually translated into English as “righteousness.” So to strive for the kingdom of God and God’s justice, according to Jesus, is the Gospel of cooperation and sharing.

The prophet Isaiah says, “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed… If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” As members of the kingdom of God, we are called to do the will of the Creator, whose justice calls us to participate in the renewal process of all creation through social, economic, ecological and all forms of justice.

Therefore, Jesus is teaching a Gospel of sharing, where we share our skills, talents, joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses. This suggests cooperation with any and all who strive for justice.  Likewise, it suggests cooperation with creation so that the Earth and all her inhabitants thrive as God intended.

Parts of today’s Gospel might sound like there is a hierarchy of creation. But that’s because we are hearing it with our modern, disconnected-from-creation ears. Jesus’ listeners understood their relationship with nature closer to that held by First Nations than our euro-anthropocentric understanding. Their laws even demanded that animals killed for food or sacrifice had to be slain in a way that caused them the least pain and suffering. Sports hunting would have been anathema.

The ancients understood that in God’s kingdom, all beings have value. Jesus is not speaking of a hierarchy of creation but he is calling his followers to observe and learn from nature, to hear the Creator’s voice in the beauty and diversity of creation. As members of the family of God, we are to recognize not only kinship with other humans. God loves and feeds and clothes the Earth community’s non-human members and we are to acknowledge our kinship with them. This relationship of all things is an underlying assumption in today’s Gospel.

Victoria Marie is is co-founder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Roman Catholic Women Church Community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014). This reflection comes from a shared or dialogue homily where Vikki gives a short “homily starter” then those present can offer their reflections as well. Some ideas come from Adrian Leske’s “Matthew 6.25-34: Human Anxiety and the Natural World” in Earth Story in the New Testament and Apocalyptic, 2002.

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