This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. So, today is the last Sunday before Lent. When, in June, after Pentecost, we resume Ordinary Time, we will read the second discourse of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, the so-called “missionary discourse.” Therefore, today we conclude the reading of the sermon on the mount.
We have already seen on previous Sundays how radical Jesus is in his speech. He shows himself likewise drastic at the beginning of today’s passage: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” In Christian life there is no space for compromise; we have to decide on which side we want to be. Jesus says this because he knows man’s heart; he knows that love is exclusive: it cannot be directed to anybody without distinction; it will be necessarily focused on one person; others will be inevitably loved less—this is the meaning of “hating”.
Who are the two masters between whom we should choose? God and money: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Non potestis Deo servire et mammonae)—“mammon” is an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property. Why should we put on the same level two realities so different between them? God is the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth; money is just a means invented by man to make trade among people easier. Of course, as long as money is a simple instrument for living, there is no problem. Jesus himself used money; he had a treasurer and was accompanied by some women who provided for him out of their resources. The problem is that money often, instead of being a means, inclines to become a master, to take the place of God, thus becoming an idol.
This happens when we put all our confidence in it. We feel safe just because we are rich or, on the contrary, we feel unsafe just because we are poor. In these cases, we give the money a power it does not have. Our life does not depend on it. We might live a life of ease, and yet not be happy; we might possess a lot of money, and lose everything all at once; we might be the richest in the world, and fall sick and die suddenly. Mammon is not able to save us.
Instead, we can rely on God, because he is almighty, he is able to do anything. He is all-knowing; he knows what we need. He is good, because, before being our master, he is our Father; and a father does not forget his children: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you”—so the first reading.
What guarantee does Jesus give to persuade us to trust in God? “Look at the birds in the sky … Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.” Jesus invites us to look at nature: birds and flowers do not worry, and yet they lack nothing. We call this care of God for his creatures “providence.” It is the characteristic of a father, who makes sure that his children want for nothing. So, if God is concerned for beasts and plants, should he not be concerned for human beings? “Are not you more important than they?”
In short, today’s liturgy invites us to get rid of anxiety and throw ourselves into God’s hands. In the Responsorial Psalm we have repeated: “Rest in God alone, my soul.” There is another Psalm that expresses even better this abandonment to divine providence: “Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. As a child rest in its mother’s arms, even so my soul” (Ps 131:2). What should we worry about? “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” This should be our only concern: to seek the kingdom of God. As for the rest, he will see to it.