Jul 30, 2016

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Whoever he was, he was afraid. His attention was focused, not on the Lord, but on someone else, something else. In fact, by attempting to bring God into this dispute concerning an inheritance, he reveals how fear is often a distraction to faith and how charity and love can be poisoned by greed and selfishness.

In this incident we read in the Gospel, what could the man’s brother give him as an inheritance that was more important than what Christ could give? Who can provide an inheritance that lasts for eternity? St. Ambrose says, “You must not consider what you seek. More important is who you are asking”. The voice from the crowd did not recognize Christ as Lord, but only as teacher. He was soon taught a lesson!

In doing so, Christ provides us with a caution by offering us an example of greed and to compare our lives against the image he paints of the rich man who feels the need to build for himself huge storage units for all his things. One has only of think of the great pyramids and treasures once stored within those great ancient structures. Tomb raiders, thieves and archeologists have carried away all their treasures. And for many of the pharaohs themselves, we find their bodies now on display behind glass – objects of curiosity for school children and tourists!

If we fail to learn the discipline of detachment and resist poverty of spirit as called for by Christ, then the kingdom of heaven cannot be ours. If the concerns that preoccupy us do not raise our minds to Christ in order to seek the face of God, then we will ultimately and inevitability feel sadness and inadequacy when we look out at the things of this world comparing ourselves with it. But “Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa) (Cf. Comp.CCC 531-533)

The mistake made by the rich man spoken of by Christ in the Gospel was not simply having wealth. Rather, he did not understand what his wealth was given to him for. Instead of his plans to hoard it and ultimately do nothing with it, had he been resolved to share his blessings with those who genuinely needed a helping hand then he would not have been afraid to die, not afraid of letting go of everything, even his own life in order to embrace heaven. “Those who know that they are mortal should not come to an unprepared end” (St. Leo the Great)

The Scriptures this Sunday help us to appreciate that Christ comes to help us to see beyond the “goods” of this world and to help us purify our earthly attachments that would otherwise weigh us down. It is for this reason Christ has given us the Holy Eucharist that points us in the direction of the heavens.

When the priest says: “Pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God our almighty Father”, the implication is that there are in fact two sacrifices intertwined, united together. The first is that of Christ the eternal priest, who as divine, has everything – but choose to let go of all of it - he emptied out everything, surrendered every bit of his life, to be stripped naked, to be tortured to death. This he willingly choose in order to win our eternal freedom. But we can only inherit this if, likewise, we too make our own sacrifice personal and let go of what we hold onto in our own efforts to keep ourselves alive. We should not be afraid of detachment, dying to this world, to the things of this world, dying even to ourselves.

To put this into context in the Eucharist, allow me to dare put words into the mouth of Christ. In the Mass Christ says, "It's not your time I want to free, it's not your talents, I don't want your treasures. I want you. I want to free you. I have not come to inconvenience your life, nor to become a burden, nor to make you feel guilty that you have so many things. I have come instead to empty you of your whole life. But do not be afraid. I will give you a new life - I give you my life, my life, the life of God, shall become yours", says the Lord. (cf. CCC 549)

So, let us now prepare for an exchange of gifts - the bread and wine of this world in exchange for the heavenly body and blood of Christ. Strictly speaking, it is not a fair exchange. Christ made the greater sacrifice. Accepting this heavenly inheritance, the gift of the everlasting body and blood of Christ in exchange for our own, may the gift of the Holy Eucharist always keep us humble, continually grateful and forever generous.

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