OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

In these weeks, as we follow the Sermon on the Mount in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, it can feel as though we are dealing with some very “obvious” and familiar teachings. Last week we had “Love your neighbour”, and this week the extremely simple message that God loves and cares for us. This is because the Sermon on the Mount is a great summary of the most basic teachings of our faith, and we should take this opportunity to renew within ourselves our awareness of these teachings. After a simple, yet beautiful image in the first reading, Jesus elaborates on the idea of the constant care of God for us with some more beautiful images: he invites us to look at the birds and the flowers, which do not have money, mortgages, computers, cars or so many of the things we have and worry about, and yet manage to be beautiful and happy in what God provides. The message is simple, and is expressed right at the beginning of the Gospel: trust God; be the servant of God, relying on God for everything, not on money or the other things of this world.

From the Catechism

Notes for Readers

Divine providence and its role in history
CCC 302-314

Idolatry subverts values; trust in providence vs. divination
CCC 2113-2115

Prayer of faithful petition for coming of the Kingdom
CCC 2632

Trust in Providence does not mean idleness
CCC 2830

CCC 302-308
Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created "in a state of journeying" (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call "divine providence" the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection: “By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, "reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well". For "all are open and laid bare to his eyes", even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.” The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." And so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens". As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established." And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a "primitive mode of speech", but a profound way of recalling God's primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him. The prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust. Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children's smallest needs: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?". . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan. To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it. God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbours. Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their sufferings. They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom. The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes." Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.
First Reading: Isaiah 49:14-15
 
Your biggest problem with a six-line first reading is that it can be over and done with before the congregation has settled. You must wait! Wait until everyone is seated, wait until (if this happens in your parish) children have left the Church for Children’s Liturgy of the Word, wait until the usual settling and shuffling has happened. If this means standing at the lectern, facing the congregation (neither frowning nor grinning) until they are ready to listen, then so be it! If these beautiful words are lost, it is a great shame. So wait until all are ready, and then with a quiet confidence proclaim these words. Notice they are two parts – question and response. Zion (which equals Jerusalem or the whole people of Israel) makes a questioning complaint that the Lord has forgotten her. God replies, very directly: “I will never forget you.” Allow these words to have their full weight in your congregation’s minds
 
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
 
At first glance these seems a rather confused passage from Saint Paul – he seems to be jumping about a bit, wandering from the subject, not a clear and focussed as usual. But that is probably just a result of the personal elements that Paul puts into this passage. At various times Saint Paul was the victim of false accusations, so there is a real personal message here. The main point is that Paul (and all of us) are responsible to God for what we do with the mysteries entrusted to us. Paul says that neither other human beings or courts, nor even our own conscience can truly pass judgment on us – only God can do this. Paul advises against passing any sort of judgement, but leaving it to the moment when God will “light up all that is hidden”. Spend a while with the reading before you proclaim it out loud, and think of how you would say what Saint Paul is saying.

Gospel Wordsearch