Birds, Lilies and Grass

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Is 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Gospel Mt 6:24-34

St. Anthony of Padua was a great preacher, recently I discovered a book with his homilies in it, and I have been studying his preaching. I thought that it would be good for us as a parish to learn about how he thought about God and the Sacred Scriptures.

When St. Anthony reflected on this Gospel he had three insights to help us put this Gospel in the action. At the heart of this Gospel Christ is trying to teach his disciples (that is us) that God loves us, we only need to trust in him. It is really that simple. God loves you.

Birds, Lilies and Grass
In the Gospel Christ uses three different parts of nature to teach us about God’s love and the spiritual life. the Birds, the Lilies and the Grass. Each one of these examples is a lesson for us to grow in holiness.

The Birds
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” St. Anthony taught that the birds are the saints who are able to soar quickly to God in their prayer. They soar to the spiritual heights readily and are easily able to be in the presence of God. St. Dominic was known to experience quiet moments of contemplation when he was out walking with his brothers. His friends said that they saw him stealing a quiet moment here or there when he was rapt in ecstasy, filled with the love of God.

Stealing quiet moments of praise
We too are called to live saintly lives; to live lives like Jesus. One way that we can walk a little further on the road to sanctity is to find a way to steal a quiet moment of praise and thanksgiving with God during the daily hustle bustle of life. For example when we have the opportunity to speak to one of our children and we know that we are touching their hearts, or when we get a new job, or our relative is healed. Take a few moments and sit down in a quiet corner of your house and offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God. In this way we can be a little more like the birds in the sky that fly readily to God with praise and thanksgiving.

Lilies of the Field
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.” St. Anthony compared the lilies of the field to those faithful Christians who attend mass regularly and try their best to live a faithful life in the world. One way that the lilies represent the members of the Church is that they are in the field that represents the world. God finds us to be most beautiful when we persevere in our Christian life away from the Church, because it is in the world that we are the witness to God’s love.

Medicinal roots, white flower, beautiful fragrance
St. Anthony taught that we are like the lilies of the field when we are serious about our repentance in three ways. First of all, repentance for our own wrongs helps us to stay focused on our goal – which is eternal life in heaven. The root of the lily is a medicine for our body, just as a life of penance is medicine for our soul. Secondly, we give witness to the fact that God loves us when we love one another chastely – that is purely. Our pure love for one another is like the white flower of the lily as it reminds everyone of the beauty of chaste love. Lastly, a lily has a very beautiful smell. St. Anthony says that when we are grounded in our penance and live a good example of selfless love then our lives give off the fragrance of a good reputation, and people enjoy being in our presence.

Grass of the field
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” Unfortunately each and every one of us also has a little bit of the grass of the fields growing up between our toes. St. Anthony likens the grass of the field to sinners who are unaware of where their sin is leading them. Jesus says that the grass grows up today, but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. Let us take a moment together and think back over the last week looking for those occasions where we fell into sin? Ultimately what happens when we choose to sin is that we think that the consequence of our sin is not as bad as the reward we get by sinning. When we view internet pornography, we don’t think about how that is damaging our marriage or our relationship with women, we are only thinking about our own selfish pleasure. When we cut down a friend or spouse with our words it is our need for vengeance that outweighs the reality of the hurt that we are inflicting. Whenever we choose to sin we are blind to the reality of the hurt that we cause to others and to God, we are blind to how we are hurting ourselves by separating ourselves from God’s peace and joy.

It’s time to do some weeding.
In the second reading St. Paul says that when Christ comes “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” Let us take heed of his warning and this week live like the lilies rather than the grass. Let us pay attention when the Holy Spirit convicts us of some area in our life that is wrapped in the darkness of sin. When we find those areas let us bring them to the sacrament of confession, which we have here at St. Anthony’s every Saturday afternoon. If we can do this we become more like the lilies in the field that are clothed by God with finer garments than that of Solomon. Then when our time here on earth is finished, we will soar like the birds of the sky into the presence of our heavenly Father who will praise us for fighting the good fight against sin.

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