An alternate translation of today’s Gospel reads in part: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ”
Clearly Jesus is teaching us about the place that our material well-being should occupy in our lives. At first blush, it would seem that he is offering a stark choice between two, mutually conflicting alternatives: God or mammon. You cannot serve both; you have to choose one. And to choose God, we need to stop worrying about how to provide for ourselves. As a solution this seems suspiciously simple and, as a life plan, a little naive and even foolhardy. Rather than presenting us with a simple choice, Jesus is saying something more profound.
He is warning us against adopting a fundamentally flawed view of the world, warning us not to put God and our material needs on the same footing. He is reminding us that God is not just the greatest of all beings; he is totally beyond all created reality. He brought everything that is into being and he holds everything that is in existence. God is not a part of creation; he completely transcends all space and time.
If we were to “serve” both God and wealth, that is , if we were to give the same importance to our material needs as we give to God, we would in effect, be diminishing God: we would be reducing him to the level of the material universe. Conversely, by trying to serve both God and mammon, we would be elevating the material world- our own well-being and ambition- to the level of the divine. We would be usurping the role of Providence by making ourselves masters of our own destinies, and if we were successful at it, we might very well convince ourselves that we have no need of God.
But in this passage Jesus places us firmly in the created world. By comparing us to birds and flowers, Jesus reminds us that we are creatures just as they are – even if we are of a more privileged variety - and that we are equally dependent on divine providence for all our needs.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father William's homily at this morning's Mass.