Becoming Rich in the Mercy that Matters to God, 29th Monday (II), October 17, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch
October 17, 2016
Eph 2:1-10, Ps 100, Lk 12:13-21

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel, there is a huge contrast between two types of riches, two types of inheritance, two types of legacy, one very often sought by those who are spiritually worldly, the other counseled by Jesus; one ultimately a patrimony of monopoly money, the second an endowment of God. It’s important for us to enter into this scene which is as relevant today as it was what someone in the crowd shouted the question to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus’ response to the man’s request for Jesus to command his brother to give him his share of the inheritance is, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Jesus didn’t come from heaven to earth to settle inheritance disputes but to make us aware of a totally different type of inheritance. He was the one who told the Parable of the Prodigal Son, of course, which begins with a hunger for an inheritance that leads one to treat his father as if he were already dead. All sin can be summarized in a sense by a desire to place possessions, or money, or the things of this world, and ultimately oneself over other people, including one’s family members. St. Paul would say that “love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Jesus gave an important antidote as medicine against this spirit of acquisitiveness that leads to all types of sins:  “Take care to guard against all greed,” Jesus says, “for … one’s life does not consist of possessions.” He then tells a parable about the rich fool who was blessed with a bountiful harvest who instead of sharing any of his good fortune with those who were hungry after the harvest of grain had filled up the barns he already had, decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones in an unbelievable building project of selfishness. The man egocentrically said to himself, “As for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years.” He didn’t care that many others didn’t have the bare necessities. And that led to other excesses as he convinced himself to “rest, eat, drink and be merry!” Charity wasn’t even in the picture. And he had a rude awakening coming. That night he would die. “You, fool, this night your life will be demanded of you,” Jesus puts into the mouth of his Father. “And the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” Jesus drew the moral of the story: “Thus it will be for the one who stores up treasure for himself, but is not rich in what matters to God.”
  • We’re living in a culture of the grain bin. We obsess about storing treasures or even junk up for ourselves, constantly building new storage facilities to house the stuff that can no longer fit in our homes, rather than giving the stuff we don’t need away. Perhaps the most ubiquitous grain bin of all are financial portfolios, where so many obsess about seeing them grow, while often few think nearly as much if at all about how to share those blessings with others, especially those in desperate need. To all of us in this culture, Jesus calls us to become rich in what matters to God. In the passage right after today’s section, which unfortunately is not included, Jesus tells us: “Sell your belonging and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
  • How do we become rich what matters to God? St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading, taken from his Letter to the Ephesians: It’s his mercy, something that we should ponder and give thanks for all the more in this special Jubilee Year. St. Paul highlights the richness of God’s mercy by contrasting it first to our condition when God acted with mercy. We “were dead in [our] transgressions and sins in which [we] once lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.” Our transgressions and sins had separated us from the life of God because we were seeking other things than God, we were following the desires of the flesh instead of the spirit, we were vulnerable to the “ruler of the power of the world and the spirit at work in the disobedient,” namely the devil, and we were children living in anger like everyone else, rather than living with God’s mercy. But God acted. St. Paul describes it: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ …  and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” God has showed us with the abundance of his mercy, raised us from the death to which sin leads, brought us already in embryo to eternal life, and wants us to manifest the immeasurable riches of his mercy to the world. This is the “good works that God has prepared in advance” for us, this is the reason why we are his “handiwork” and God wants us to “live in them.” We come to life precisely by the works of mercy God has created us to accomplish, paying forward the mercy we have received.  To be truly rich is to be like God and God is supposed to be our inheritance and our treasure. As we pray in Psalm 16, “You are my inheritance, O Lord!” “I say to the Lord, you are my Lord, you are my only good. … You, Lord, are my allotted portion and my cup. … Fair to me indeed is my inheritance.”
  • Today we celebrate a saint who took this inheritance seriously, who sought to become rich in what matters. St. Ignatius of Antioch is one of the greatest human beings who has ever lived. He had a notion of what real wealth is. As we read this morning in the breviary from his letter to the Christians in Rome, he said, “No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.” He didn’t fear death in the least, as if life in this world were more important than life in the next. He wrote, “I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. … The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish.” He was aware of the draw of the prince of this world and the spirits of disobedience. “The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbour envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: ‘Come to the Father.’ I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish. I am no longer willing to live a merely human life. … Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God.” He treasured what God treasured. He also was merciful throughout his journey to Rome to the ten guards — whom he said treated him as if they were hungry “leopards” — and to those who would condemn him. Ultimately he regarded them as doing him a favor.
  • St. Ignatius drew his strength from the Eucharist. He saw his life, as we just noted, as being ground into wheat so that he could become in Christ pure bread, united and transubstantiated in the Eucharistic sacrifice. He called Jesus in the Eucharist God’s great gift and the medicine of immorality, given for the forgiveness of sins, which makes real and eternal life possible. We don’t need lions to grind us into wheat; we have ordinary life. But all of that is meant to be a preparation for this sacrifice in order to seek a heavenly treasure. Today we turn to St. Ignatius, and say to him, “Give me a share of your inheritance,” an inheritance that won’t remain in grain bins after we go, but an inheritance that not only we will take but which will lead us to where we will be able to share St. Ignatius’ eternal friendship where we will be enriched with the greatest wealth of all.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 eph 2:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
You were dead in your transgressions and sins
in which you once lived following the age of this world,
following the ruler of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient.
All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh,
following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses,
and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.
But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.

Responsorial Psalm ps 100:1b-2, 3, 4ab, 4c-5

R. (3b) The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Sing joyfully to the LORD all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Give thanks to him; bless his name, for he is good:
the LORD, whose kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.

Gospel lk 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”
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