Opposites. The readings for daily Masses are usually simply sequential. What that means is that the first reading starts with a book, and the whole book of the bible is divided up into sections read each day. The same is true of the gospel. Unless there is a special day, in which case readings are special as well, there is no inherent connection between the first reading and the gospel. Despite this, there are moments where the readings seem to compliment each other in an interesting way.
Today’s readings do not provide so much a compliment as they do a contrast. The first reading outlines a way of life that I must say I find tempting. Power. Riches. Security. These basic values can become illusive idols in our lives. The gospel stresses the small. A cup of water given to a disciple. A concern with holiness more than with success. A focus on eternal life more so than this life. The contrasts are dramatic.
The question is clear: In whom do we trust? Is it in our own efforts, our own strength, in promises that offer guarantees, even though there is no such thing? Or, do we trust in God, whose gifts are not always as tangible but whose promise to us is much more sure? This is the powerful question.
Yet, again and again in the gospels, Jesus challenges us to be attentive to the poor, the marginalized, the outcast. It is not our own earthly security that matters, but our heavenly security resting in God. It is not about powerful relationships in this life but in the most powerful relationship with God. Both readings offer a different way to go about life. Trust in self, or trust in God. Choose well.