May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.
I remember once while I was working in Revenue being approached by a colleague, asking me to lend him a hand in getting a case settled that had being going on for a few years. I told him that I would be happy to, but would have to check with my line-supervisor first. He was amenable to the idea, particularly as he also wanted to see the case finalised, as it had been on our books far too long in his opinion.
'But,' he told me, 'I'll warn you now, you'll have to do most of the work on this. That chap is like the lillies of the field.'
'What do you mean?' asked.
'He does not toil, neither does he spin,' came the reply. It is an interesting twist, I think, on our Lord's words, which we hear in our gospel reading today, being used to describe someone who was particularly shiftless and idle; words, as we all know, I am sure, which were intended to make clear to us how great is God's wisdom and generosity in how he meets all our needs. When I think of all the amazing ways in which God provides for us, I find it difficult not to think of the 40 years the people of Israel spent wandering in the desert – during which time, we are told by sacred scripture, neither their clothes nor their shoes wore out, their need for food being met by manna from heaven and great flocks of quails, and whose need for water was met by the rock that Moses struck and from which a great torrent then poured out – a rock that, we are told by St Paul in First Corinthians, followed them. God therefore provided them with all they needed to survive during their time in the wilderness.
It is a powerful scriptural reminder to us, I think, of what we should know from looking at the world around us, how God provides with everything we need in this world he has created for us to live in. And because God has given us everything we need we must stop worrying, Christ tells us. Stop worrying that we do not have enough – or if we have enough for today perhaps we will not have enough for tomorrow or the day after. Trust in God; we know he will provide because he has already provided. Accept his gifts gratefully … and start to concern yourself with things that are of greater importance – the salvation of souls. Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Christ tells us. This means we must give spiritual matters a higher place than material. Christ assures that matters relating to bodily needs will be met by God – so we have therefore no excuse when it comes to souls - your soul, the souls of your family and those around you in the community in which you live, and the souls of those in the world around us.
And of course, just as God has provided us with the means to sustain our bodies, so he provides us with the means to sustain our souls. And because it is for us of greater worth to seek the kingdom of God than it is to search out earthly treasure, therefore we must understand that the spiritual gifts God provides for us are of a higher worth than all the material wonders he provides us with. First he has given us our reason, by dint of which, as St Paul tells us in Romans, all people may come to know him – at least in the sense of knowing he exists and having the knowledge of right and wrong written in or hearts. More specifically, he has given us his word in Sacred Scriptures – a treasury of revelation through which he has spoken to men and women down through the ages and continues to speak to us today. He has also revealed himself to us even more fully through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came into the world to suffer and die for our sins so that all might be saved. That Son established a Church to which he gave Sacraments – sacraments which are a channel of grace for us, and a powerful way for us to strengthen our spiritual lives. And just as he ensured the Israelites in the wilderness had the food they needed to sustain during their wanderings, so to does he give us the spiritual food and drink we need to sustain our souls during our pilgrimage here on earth. And not just any food, but the very body and blood of his Son Jesus Christ – the second person of the Blessed Trinity – God himself! For as Christ himself told us in Scriptures, his body is true food, and his blood true drink … and those who eat and drink of it will have eternal life … never, of course, forgetting St Paul's words that we must do so worthily – not that we can ever be truly worthy of so great a gift, but even then God's provides us with the means to be as worthy as we may through his gifts of baptism, and confession and absolution … showing that we are all, in a sense, like more like my idle colleague in the civil service than we may realise … for when it comes to what truly matters in life, we indeed neither toil or spin, but God our Heavenly Father provides … and for such great gifts I pray that we are now, and always be, truly grateful. Amen.