2- Reading and understanding the Gospel: Divine Providence (Mt 6:25-34)
25 “That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing! 26Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? 27Can any of you, for all his worrying, add one single cubit to his span of life? 28And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; 29yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these. 30Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith? 31So do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?’ 32It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. 33Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. 34So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
2. 1- Explanation
This passage of the Gospel is a wonderful hymn about Divine Providence, but it has always been a source of numerous misinterpretations: for example, that it invites idleness. Jesus never wished to encourage laziness and sleep (he repeats the word ‘worry’ six times in this passage), but he is keen on keeping us detached from worldly matters which hinder us from seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and surrendering with trust to our Heavenly Father.
The first six verses (Mt 6:25-30) focus on avoiding excessive concern about food and clothing. Across history, men have concentrated on providing food, through sowing the fields, harvesting and building storage barns, while women provide clothing through spinning and sewing. Jesus tells us here, that if the Father cares for even the birds and feeds them, and arrays the flowers in the fields (weeds to some people!) in beautiful splendour, how much more will He care for His children?
The next six verses (Mt 6:31-36) focus on our principal aim in life, which should be to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The main theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the Charter or Law of the Kingdom. Worldly matters are a faith issue, for those focusing on these matters are pagans and non-believers. “It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all (Mt 6:32) And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not?” (Mt 5:47) “In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6: 7-8). Jesus exhorts us to avoid the actions of pagans and strive to live in unity with God the Father, for He shall indeed provide material and spiritual necessities in due time.
The last verse (Mt 6:34) summarizes the essential rule for our life: Seek to live in the present day and do not worry about tomorrow. A major and burning preoccupation for many people is the fear of the future. If we remember the Hebrew people wandering in the desert, we see how they had to collect manna sufficient only for their survival day-by-day, during the Exodus, because the food would have become infested with worms and rotted if hoarded (Ex 16:4, 16-21). This is the lesson of Jesus to his disciples.
2. 2- Summary and Practice
Jesus invites us to trust God as a real father cares for his children, hence the need to surrender unconditionally to the Father’s will. In the Our Father, we say: “Give us today our daily bread”, reflecting the role of the father in the family: securing the daily bread of his children who, in turn, rely on him and trust him.
Let us behave unlike pagans who are concerned merely about worldly matters. The disciple must above all seek the Kingdom of God, in other words, seek the true treasure in his life, that is, the accomplishment of righteousness, the desire to fulfill the will of the Father, to live according to the law of the Kingdom of God and by His commandments. This is not to suggest that one should live passively with our arms crossed, but rather that we should strive to help others with whatever material aid we can provide. Sharing resources with others is a highly laudable act of charity.
In his infinite wisdom, Jesus asks us to avoid worrying about tomorrow, for each day is enough in itself. Often, man lays plans for his life, the life of his children, his old age etc. We work hard for a vague future, unknown and full of surprises; whereas Jesus calls us to nourish our faith in God on a day-to-day basis and invites us to leave the future in the hands of the Father.
In short, this passage of the Gospel invites us to a “committed tranquility of mind” in line with the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness (charity done in the name of God to our brethren). It frees us of the constant obsession that we are living as orphans, without anyone to care for us.