I must confess that today’s gospel (Mt 6:24-34) has long caused me consternation. While I have never experienced serious want for any physical necessities, I know that hundreds of millions in the Christian Era have been deprived of food, clothes, and shelter, even unto death, often due to oppressive regimes and war, or simply because of climate and natural disasters.
So how are those persons in the most desperate conditions to understand, “If God so clothes the grass of the field…will he not much more provide for you…?”? We know Jesus only speaks the truth (He is the Truth), yet so many have suffered for want of the basics even to the present day.
Now, Jesus does place conditions on these provisions. He berates the anxious for having “little faith” (v. 30). He adds that we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides” (v. 33). But certainly many suffer and die who have strong faith and seek the Kingdom (we may even include some non-Christians here — see CCC 847). We hope and pray that folks suffering in these ways would be relieved through justice and charity, and this passage should be seen as a call to practice these virtues toward the least of our brethren, but this still does not seem to deal with the question. Or does it?
Commentaries speak of preoccupation with, or anxiety over, possessions instead of a primary focus on God and eternal life which will be the fulfillment of all our desires; certainly, we should strive to please God in all of our interactions with Him and neighbor. The most helpful commentary I have come across emphasizes, in these hard cases, the practice and promotion of justice and charity mentioned above.
It sometimes happens…that despite their industry individuals are in want of necessities; but that is an accident which proves nothing against the general rule. In the interests of the whole order, God ordinarily respects the natural course of events which he has established, even when the innocent suffer from it. But most of the time man must be held responsible for the misfortunes from which the impious take occasion to blaspheme. The one who suffers is not always guilty. Not infrequently his suffering is imputable to those who, by reason of social and Christian fellowship, should come to his assistance and fail to do so. (Alfred Durand, The Word of Salvation, vol. 1, The Gospel According to St.Matthew [Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957], 116)
While I would heartily encourage everyone to strive for abandonment to God’s will so as to attain the Kingdom, and to advance that same Kingdom by imitating Christ, I find myself still dissatisfied with the explanations for this passage that I have come across regarding the most desperate cases. I would be happy to hear from you, dear reader.