Sunday, March 02, 2014

Who's Your Boss?


8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Picture: cc SeƱor Hans

Sisters and brothers, imagine for a moment, that you’re a working adult. And, for some reason, you’re arriving very late to work today. How do you feel? Are you anxious? Worried that you’ll get into trouble? … Or, imagine that you’ve been given a very important project to complete at work. And you’ve carelessly made a very serious mistake. So serious that there’s no way to recover. No way to prevent the project from ending in total failure. How do you react? Do you panic?

Especially in crisis situations like these, how we feel and how we react will, of course, depend a great deal on at least one thing. It will depend on whom it is we’re working for. On what our boss is like. If the boss is very demanding. Someone who always expects a hundred and ten percent. Someone whose nickname is slavedriver. Someone who doesn’t suffer fools. Someone who won’t think twice about firing people. Then we’ll probably feel really anxious if we arrive late at the office. We’ll probably be extremely panicky if we make a costly mistake. In contrast, if our boss were patient and understanding and kind. Perhaps we won’t feel so threatened.

How we react to a crisis at work is often a good indication of the kind of boss for whom we work. And this is true, isn’t it, even if we may be working for ourselves? Even someone who is self-employed can still feel anxious and panicky at work. And, when this happens, it may indicate one of two things. Either that person is very demanding even towards himself. Or he isn’t really his own boss. Whether he realises it or not, he’s actually working for someone, or something, else. Like a domineering wife perhaps. Or a demanding parent. Or an unforgiving global economy. Nor is it a matter only of our reactions in a crisis. It’s also our usual disposition at work. Are we typically calm and collected? Or are we more frequently anxious and agitated. Our habitual feelings at work can give us a good indication of who it is we are actually working for. Of what our true boss is really like.

There is a close connection, then, between our feelings and reactions at work and the kind of boss we may have. And this is true in the spiritual life as well. In today’s gospel, Jesus presents us with a very clear instruction. It is a command to feel and react in a certain way. Do not worry, Jesus says. Do not worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Now, I think many of us will agree that this is much easier said than done. Especially if we may be living in situations of crisis and stress. When, for example, I have a young family to raise and mortgages to pay. When I am the sole breadwinner. And I’ve just lost my job. How am I not to worry?

Thankfully, in the gospel, Jesus doesn’t just tell us what to do. He also tells us how to do it. How not to worry. Even in times of difficulty. And Jesus does this by helping us to make a very important connection. A connection that is indicated by the first three words of the second paragraph. That is why, Jesus says. That is why I am telling you not to worry. That is why… These three words are very important, because they invite us to make a crucial link between the second paragraph and the first.

You remember what Jesus says in the first paragraph: No one can be the slave of two masters. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money. In other words, in the spiritual life, you cannot have two bosses. You have to choose between one and the other. And not only do you have to choose, but, as we observed earlier, the kind of boss you choose will determine what your life feels like. How you react to crisis.

For example, who are the people who worry over what to eat and drink and wear? According to Jesus, it is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. It is the people who do not know the one true God. The people who do not acknowledge God as their Boss. The people who worship other gods. Who work for other bosses. It is these people who worry. And the reason is clear. As we said earlier, how you react to difficulties is a good indication of who you work for. Of who your boss really is. Presumably, the pagans work for bosses who stress them out. Bosses who continually make them feel worried and insecure.

In contrast, Jesus wants us to believe that, if we worship the one true God. If we choose God as our Master. If we follow the example of the psalmist who says, in God alone is my soul at rest. Then our reactions will be very different. We will not worry about the things the pagans worry about. And the reason is simple. It is because, unlike the gods of the pagans, unlike the god whose name is Money, our God is not a demanding, unreasonable, slavedriver of a boss. On the contrary, our God is caring and compassionate. Merciful and understanding. Gentle and loving. A God who cares even for the birds in the sky and the flowers growing in the fields. A God who finds it impossible to forget his people. As the first reading tells us, even if a woman were to forget her baby at the breast, God will still not forget us.

But that’s not all. The first reading ends at verse 15. Which is rather unfortunate. For verse 16 is very moving. Here God tells the people of Israel exactly why they will never be forgotten. I have branded you, God tells them, on the palms of my hands. For the people in the prophet Isaiah’s day, this claim was, of course, only a metaphor. God had no hands then. But, for us who are Christian, this prophecy has actually come true quite literally. For we believe in a God who has become flesh. A God who has loved us to the point of submitting his own body to crucifixion. A God whose hands and feet have been nailed to a cruel cross. A God who, even though he has been raised from the dead, continues to bear the scars that the nails made. It is impossible for this crucified and risen and scarred God to forget us, because, in the marks of his Passion, we have, quite literally, been carved into the palms of his hands.

This, my dear sisters and brothers, is the kind of God we have. This is the God we gather here this morning to meet and to celebrate. A God who inspires not anxiety and insecurity. But gratitude and trust. A God whose people do not worry. Not because they’re afraid they will be punished if they do. But simply because they know how much their God cares for them. Simply because they know that not even death can tear them away from his loving nail-scarred hands.

If all this is true, then the answer to our question is clear. How can we stop worrying? Even when everything may seem to be going wrong? Simply by doing our best to worship the one true God. To rest in him alone. To set our hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness. To become what St. Paul tells us we are meant to be. Christ’s servants. Stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. People who, in everything they think and say and do, work for no other master than the One who gave his life to set them free.

Sisters and brothers, whether or not we worry depends very much on the god we choose to worship. On the master we choose to serve. On the boss for whom we choose to work. Sisters and brothers, for whom do you work? Who exactly is your boss today?

2 comments:

  1. Baruch Haba B`shem Adonai ~
    "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His steadfast love endures for ever.
    Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and Set me free.
    With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?
    The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
    It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
    It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes."

    Peace, Zita

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  2. https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn2/t1/1962605_750580068293435_1988352665_n.jpg

    Our Labour here is brief, but the reward is eternal.
    Do not be disturbed by the clamour of the world, which passes like a shadow.

    St Claire of Assisi.

    **************************

    O Lord,

    YOU ARE THE REASON for my existence. hence You are THE BOSS of my life and YOU alone would I serve.

    All human "bosses" are but transitory - be they good or bad bosses..no matter how "powerful" they may seem to be - they come and go and no one can guarantee that they will remain bosses forever...there is no permanent security in our secular world of today...

    Ultimately, it is to YOU, the ONLY TRUE BOSS - to whom all of us are accountable for all we are and all we do in this passing life.. it does not matter whether we are a boss, or a subordinate - we are all finite human beings - and our very life and existence is dependent totally on YOU.

    To You, O Lord, do I accord my highest esteem, praise and reverence.

    You ALONE will I serve, every day of my life.

    Amen.

    Seeing IS Believing
    3 March 2014 12:30pm

    ReplyDelete

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