26 February 2011

Don't leave the baby on the bus!

Homily for 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Readings: Is 49:14-15; Ps 61; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Mt 6:24-34

Choosing a card for someone, perhaps for their birthday, is a revealing thing. Whether it is cheap or expensive, early or late, well meant but never sent or barely thought about and given without care – all teaches us about ourselves. A particular card I recall seeing in a shop one time, which made me laugh out loud, showed a picture along the lines of the late 1950s soap advertising range. You know the ones with women in period dress. Anyway, this card depicts a scene of a woman pushing an empty blue pram looking utterly panic-stricken and in the background you see a departing red double-decker London bus – the bubble caption reads: ‘I left the baby on the bus!’ Clearly it’s meant to be funny, but we might ask why?

Probably, because like our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, it is something we imagine just not happening. It’s almost unnatural that a mother would leave her baby on the bus, not least as she has a pram to get off with! Yet I’m sure it happens. I know it happens. So it’s not the best example of reminding us of God’s faithfulness. Like the loving mother with her baby at the breast he’s never going to leave us on the bus! Just to underline the point and show the shortcoming of our feeble state in regard to child-forgetting, Isaiah says God’s faithfulness is like a son in the womb – you cannot forget him surely? You cannot get off the bus without your son in the womb! Let’s not go down the route of discussing the horror of abortion, save to say that the prophet seeks simply to remind us that we, like those early Israelites, do forget God from time to time, but he will never abandon us. He will never forget us! That’s true love!

We can, and do, respond to that love through service: Service of God and of neighbour, which is ultimately the same thing. This is what Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians. People will judge us on whether we have been good Christians or not. Have we, honestly, presented what it means to be a Catholic in today’s world? By their fruits you shall know them – how many people would describe us as a good Catholic?

In the end it doesn’t matter, of course, what other people say. Even if we think we are a good Catholic, or even if we know we are because others say we are a good Catholic, or even if our own consciences is clear, St Paul reminds us, it is what God thinks that determines where you spend eternity. He is the final judge and I suspect that He will be a little less harsh than you are about yourself!

But Jesus, in continuing his Sermon on the Mount, reminds us today that you cannot serve both God and money. You cannot, in other words, have two masters. Either everything about you points to serving God or it does not. The example that Jesus uses is one about worry or anxiety – you either trust the Lord will provide or you do not. This is not an excuse to do nothing to provide for your own or your family’s needs, there is no merit in simply raising your eyes to heaven and saying ‘oh, the Lord will provide’ and waiting for him to do it via other people. Laziness is, above all, the sin of sloth and deadly at that! No, today Jesus wants us to be certain that our own efforts, commendable though they be, will be no match when compared to the plentiful nature of feeding the birds nor the beauty of flowers so let us not worry and become anxious, rather let us trust in the Lord who loves us above all things. After all, did he not want to be certain the world was perfect before he created us on the sixth day?

So this week, when you’re thinking about a card to send or some other token which shows the love you have for another, do it in a way that clearly demonstrates you are, indeed, a steward of our Lord and God and whatever you do – don’t leave the baby on the bus!

8 February 2011


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