by Father Mike Stubbs
When Sunday’s first reading, IS 55:1-3, is proclaimed at Mass, I imagine that many pastors will hear it and worry that the collection that day will go down. After all, it sounds as though the prophet is suggesting that money is not all that important: “You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost.”
Meanwhile, the pastors have to balance the budgets of their parishes. In that respect, pastors can identify with the struggles of many of their parishioners who have to manage the budget for their families. They face the same issues: finding enough income to pay expenses.
Rather than comparing a parish to a business, as sometimes people will do, it makes more sense to compare a parish to a family. We should not think of parishioners as customers who shop around from parish to parish for the best deal and the most attractive services.
Rather, parishioners belong to their parish, much as family members belong to their family. At least, that is the model that the New Testament proposes when it applies the terms “brothers and sisters” to members of the church.
Unfortunately, many Catholics have rejected that model, and instead have accepted the business model proposed by the world.
So, then, how do the words of the prophet fit into this scenario? Families have bills to pay, just as parishes do?
We might remember the advice that Christ offers in the Gospels — to be in the world, but not of it. Money matters in the realities of this world. We need it to pay the bills, to provide salaries for employees, to manage the budget. In that sense, we operate in the world.
On the other hand, God offers us grace free of charge. God will love us, whether or not we can pay the bills. When we realize that, we are not of the world.
Rather than money. God asks for our full attention: “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.”
The reading addresses various deficiencies that a person can experience. Lack of money stands out most strongly for many of us: “You who have no money.”
But the deficiencies do not stop there. God is also appealing to those who are thirsty, those who are hungry, those lacking something in their lives. God promises to supply that which is lacking: “Come to me heedfully, that you may have life.”
While the reading describes God’s gifts in terms of physical needs, food and drink — “Come, receive grain and eat; . . . drink wine and milk” — we should understand God’s promise to extend far beyond that: “I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.”
God offers us fullness of life. And all this comes by listening, by paying attention to God.