18 June, Saturday — Wilting Lilies

Saturday of Week 11 in Ordinary Time

2 Chr 24:17-25
Mt 6:24-34

Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they have never to work or spin.

When my second child was born 5 years ago, I contemplated quitting my job to become a stay at home parent. While my husband was supportive, I personally had reservations, most of them involving losing my source of income. On a visit to the adoration room at the Church of the Transfiguration, I noticed the above bible verse about the lilies of the field on the wall outside it. Later that day, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a friend’s photo of her lovely balcony garden, along with this same verse from Matthew’s gospel. I took that as a sign that I should not be worrying too much about this, and if I needed to be the one looking after my children, then that is what I had to do.

In yesterday’s reflection, I touched on the need to keep in mind and in heart what God intends for us to do. To keep our focus on treasures of heaven instead of earthly treasures. I do firmly believe in doing just that. And in this reflection, I want to touch on the other side of that coin, which is the fact that we are, unfortunately, not lilies of the field, and that we live in a fallen world which means certain suffering for us.

Being a stay at home parent is tough. Probably not the toughest thing in the world, but let’s just say my office job seemed like a walk in the park. In contrast, full time parenting is a walk in Jurassic Park with the electricity and security systems shut down. On the whole, I would say my family benefitted from this, and I do recognise that it is a luxury to be able to survive on a single income. Many dual income families still struggle to make ends meet. Some are single parent families. Some families have children with special needs, some families have several dependents to care for. How can we not worry about the earthly things?  

The truth is, we are fallen people living in a fallen world. This is not Eden, nor is it Heaven. In fact, this place and time we live in has been likened to Hell many times, especially recently. That we are fallen is a fact. That the world kinda sucks is a fact. That some people are struggling just to survive and have no bandwidth to follow where God leads them is a fact. But this does not mean that today’s gospel passage is irrelevant. It can still be true, while we grapple with living life.  

Not too long ago, we saw a spate of financial crimes. Many people fell for online scams and millions were stolen. Several had their life savings and retirement money wiped out. If we were to follow very strictly the words of Matthew’s gospel, we may be compelled to say, “Why worry about earthly treasures?” But I think we have a tad more common sense than that. In the passage, Jesus was clearly speaking against idolising earthly treasures. We can still own them and use them. We just cannot let ourselves be too attached to them. One account of a victim of the scams was widely circulated. The young couple had most of their savings stolen. But, as the husband wrote, he eventually got over his panic and realised that it was possible to ride out this storm. Recently, there was a crypto currency crash. Overnight, people lost huge sums of money. Although some of them soon realised that they had time to recoup their losses and refill those funds meant for their children’s education.

While these stories give hope that not all is bleak and that money isn’t everything, I did notice that these survivors had backup plans. Either they had alternate sources of money, or they had time and a stable income to help soften the blow as they put those nasty incidents behind them. This means they were not overly attached to the sums of money they had lost. In any case, the bank the scammers had impersonated agreed to compensate the victims. I had also read of an elderly couple cheated of their retirement money amounting to a million dollars. I hope it was not their only financial source because they most certainly do not have time to re-earn all that, if they can even find jobs to begin with.  

These situations make me wonder about the seeming attachment to earthly wealth. It would be in poor taste to speak against it as it is not always about an unhealthy attachment, but a very normal and expected reliance on earthly wealth. It would be foolhardy to say I don’t need money or shelter or food or even medication; that God will provide for me and my family. Yes I could rely on charity, on the goodness of other people, on social safety nets, but how far will that get me? At some point, I will have to get back on my feet and start going after ‘earthly treasures’ like employment and income to survive. Part of the problem is that there is now a systemic need for earthly wealth, and that is simply our lived reality.  

I mentioned yesterday that sometimes we fear losing, or not having material treasures, because of the practical security material things provide. We can also have the ‘correct’ type of treasure in our hearts but because of our fallen nature, we fear losing even those, suffering for it, and grieving our losses. One of the holiday projects my daughters and I worked on was to clear the house of all our accumulated junk, Marie Kondo-style, or sort of. While de-cluttering sounds great, we usually won’t get too extreme with it and hang on to things that are either useless, or haven’t been used in a long time. Why is that? Because we fear. We fear needing that item again and having to go to the trouble of procuring a replacement, if we can afford it. We fear losing memories that those sentimental items bring (that’s why my phone is choked with grainy photos and videos, and my home is filled with scrawly and chunky art and craft).  

No man can serve two masters. We serve God, which means we leave things in His hands as we follow His plan for us. As far as considering the lilies of the field and how they grow without need for spinning or labouring, I would hazard a guess and say that this points to how God always has a plan for our lives, and that we need to put our faith and trust in Him and not worry to the point of obsessive hoarding. But we are also human, and God knows this very well. He knows we are sometimes fearful and reluctant. To this, I can only advise myself and tell myself to learn to trust God more because I have seen how things do work out, albeit not always as I pictured. And even if they do not work out, I would have walked a different path and grown in a different way.    

Brothers and sisters, it is a constant struggle and balancing act to be faithful to God despite our human weakness. But God is nothing if not patient and loving. Fret not, and keep fighting.  

(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)

Prayer: Father, grant us strength to overcome our fears and follow Your will. Give us patience so we may be patient with ourselves as we work through our weaknesses.  

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank you for all that You have given to us. May we never take them for granted.  

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