We have all had the experience of trusting someone and being disappointed by them. We have trusted our parents, friends, spouses, employers, governments, the church, and found that they could not entirely live up to our trust. But we can imagine trusting someone who would never let us down. That is the way we can trust God.
The reading from the gospel according to Matthew is another excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. In this section of the sermon Jesus tells his followers not to worry about what they will eat, drink or wear; we should trust that God will provide these things for us. Jesus tells us to seek first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
Jesus says that we must trust God to provide food and clothing rather than worrying about it ourselves, because no one can serve two masters. If we worry about our livelihood, we will give ourselves to the service of money and be unable to give ourselves to God. If we wish to serve God, we must give up worrying about what we eat, drink and wear, and count on God to provide it for us.
Jesus says that we can trust God to take care of us because we can see how God provides food for the birds and “clothing” for the flowers. If God takes care of the birds and flowers, will he not take care of us? Perhaps a more profound reason for trust in God is suggested by Jesus’ references to God as our “heavenly Father.” As a human father cares for his children, so our divine Father will care for us.
The reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah can be seen as offering a similar reason for radical trust in God. In this reading God is compared to a mother. As a mother loves the child she has borne, so God loves us. This reading recognizes that sometimes human parents are not models of perfect love. And so it says that even if a mother should forget her child, God will never forget us.
The comparison of God with both father and mother in these two readings reminds us that both are comparisons, images that express part of the reality of God. But neither is to be taken literally. God is neither father nor mother, neither male nor female, but can be likened to both in various ways.
The reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians continues his discussion of divisions within the Corinthian church. Part of the problem is the way the Corinthians have been evaluating Paul. In this excerpt Paul urges the Corinthians not to judge him, and says that he does not even judge himself. He waits for the judgment of the Lord. Taken together with the gospel reading, the reading from Paul’s letter can be seen as a reminder not to judge others, or even ourselves, with regard to the radical trust in God for which Jesus asks.
We all need to hear the call to trust in God completely, and we need to respond as well as we can. But perhaps we do not need to decide how well others, or even we ourselves, are doing. Our energy should be directed toward answering the call, not assessing anyone’s performance.
© Terrance Callan