A friend of mine told me that a wise old nun once taught him, “Work like everything depends on you, but pray like everything depends on God.” It’s good advice, because everything, of course, does depend on God, but God expects us to work in cooperation with him, so that his will be done. But it’s certainly a hard line to walk. Once we get to working, we almost always get full of ourselves and think everything will fall apart if we don’t take care of it. I know I find it hard to pack up and go on vacation or take time off unless I know I’ve got everything in order, and then I still worry about what comes up in the meantime.
Today’s readings remind us of the danger of crossing that line and forgetting that God is in charge. The rich young man in today’s gospel reading discovers that following the rules is only just a good start; to really gain heaven you must be willing to let go of the fading riches of this world. The people Israel in today’s first reading have grasped on to the uncertain security of alliances with this world’s powers and have let go of their belief in God, and Ezekiel prophecies that would come back to haunt them. Holding on to the things of this world will never get us anywhere; worrying about what God is doing is unproductive; we will never find ultimate security in alliances with the powers of this world. To truly gain heaven, we have to let go and hold on to our God, whose riches never fade and whose power is never outmatched.
The Psalmist gives us good advice today. Do not forget the God who gave you birth. He is in control; we are not. God is God, and we are not.