Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2017)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
For as many years and as far back as I can remember I have treasured Sunday afternoons. As a youngster, when the family had returned from church and enjoyed a nice dinner, a young neighbor friend and I would hike off alone into the coulees near our ranch for a long and peaceful afternoon. In season, we would pick June berries or take our willow rods and a can of earthworms with us and fish the ponds for bass or bluegills.
Many years later, after having celebrated Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart church in Colorado Springs, I would head out to the local airport where my plane was parked and plan an hour’s flight over some beautiful mountains and valleys.
I imagine it is much the same with many folks: On Sunday afternoons when dinner is over and the Sunday papers are read, people will head out for an NFL football game or whatever their fancy may be.
During the many years of celebrating Sunday liturgy in native Alaskan bush parishes, I would warm up my airplane and head back home toward Anchorage by some new route just to be able to say that I had seen some other precious parts of the Great Land that I had never seen before.
Now, I am leading a more sedentary life, but Sunday afternoons are still a precious and quiet time for me, devoted to reading or playing cards with friends.
I am recalling all these events after reading some beautiful lines in the gospel of Saint Matthew regarding the sacred appreciation of beauty. Interestingly, Jesus also seemed to appreciate Sabbath afternoons as a time to cease preaching for the moment and simply enjoy the exquisiteness of God’s creation. “Look at the birds of the sky.” He would say, “They do not sow or reap, they neither gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they?” “Learn a lesson from the way the wildflowers grow: They do not work, they do not spin. Yet, I assure you, not even Solomon in all his regal splendor was not arrayed like one of these.”
Sunday (Sabbath) afternoons, according to Jesus, therefore, are mostly about leisure, about rest, about recuperation, about refreshment. There is something deep in the aesthetics of our human nature that can distract us from worldly concerns if we decide to observe and appreciate them.
Having made his point about the critical worth of the person as opposed to earthly things, Jesus has a few choice words to say about the human concerns for clothing and their external beauty “Be not concerned,” he says. “If God can take care of the flowers which bloom today and die tomorrow will he not take care of you, you of little faith?”
There seems to be little doubt that clothes are an immensely important item in the economy of the world of our time. Each Sunday the New York Times, for instance, devotes a heavy section to men and women’s apparel. As one browses through the pages, there is a sense that the latest in fashions and the prices of clothing are an important part of people’s lives. Yet, how long will this or suit or dress be worn? What happens to it when the short-term interest of the individual wearer wanes? The amount that people spend in clothes is almost unimaginable.
And then again, Jesus offers us a way to find a clear path of conscience through these externals: “Stop worrying over questions like, what are we to eat, or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear? Your heavenly Father already knows all that you need. Seek out his holiness and all these things will be given you besides.”
I suspect that it would be difficult to convince the people in the fashion industry that Jesus’ suggestion might have some usefulness. Of course, Jesus was not talking to the folks at the salons and runways in Paris, New York, Rome or London. He was speaking to ordinary folks like us. Perhaps there is still time enough and some hope that we will take Jesus’ words seriously.
Finally, Jesus is simply suggesting to us that it is time already for us to ask the deep questions of life: what is truly important and what can be passed over as superficial? Sunday afternoons might just be the right moment to reflect on all this.
The scriptures: Isaiah: 49:14-15 • 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 • Matthew 6:24-34
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time