Choosing the Path to Perfection and an Imperishable Inheritance, Eighth Monday (II), May 23, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
May 23, 2016
1 Pet 1:3-9, Ps 111, Mk 10:17-27

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today, the day after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity during this Jubilee of Mercy, we ponder God the Trinity’s merciful work with a Votive Mass of the Mercy of God. In today’s Opening Prayer for this Votive Mass, we pondered each of the Person’s work in mercy in a way that borrows heavily from St. Peter’s first letter, which we likewise begin today: “O God whose mercies are numberless
    and whose treasure of goodness is infinite,” we pray, “graciously increase the faith of the people consecrated to you, so that all may worthily understand by what love they were created [God the Father’s], by what blood they were redeemed [God the Son’s], and by what Spirit they were sanctified.” And in the readings today we’re helped to choose God “whose treasure of goodness is infinite” and whose “mercies are without number.”
  • In the Gospel, a good young man runs up to Jesus to ask him the most important question any of us really needs to ask. “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” His running up to Jesus shows this youth’s hunger for the most important things. When Jesus begins at the beginning and says that the first thing we need to do to inherit eternal life is to keep our end of the Covenant, by living according to the Commandments God has given us, this young man says that he has kept them all from his youngest days. Again, he was a really good young man. St. Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him on the inside with love. But he knew he was still lacking something. Paradoxically what he was lacking was that he had too much stuff; he was lacking the poverty in spirit that we need truly to seek and live in God’s kingdom. So Jesus told him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” And he walked away sad. When given a choice between Jesus and his stuff, between serving God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength or serving (rather being enslaved to) mammon, he chose the mammon, and for that reason walked away sad.
  • Jesus immediately went on to describe how hard it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. He said it twice and mentioned that it was harder for a rich man to enter his kingdom than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. The richer one is, the more possessions one has, the easier it is to be enslaved by them. If Jesus called somebody who had nothing to leave behind, then it would be somewhat easy for the person to leave. But if one needs to count the cost, if one has become attached to one’s possessions, then it makes it much harder. And we all have to remember when we hear this that Jesus is not talking about billionaires alone but about all of us. Almost everyone in the States is wealthy by comparative statistics to those who are alive today and especially to those who were alive in previous centuries. I remember a couple of years ago, statistics came out that showed that in Massachusetts the average yearly income of someone on welfare — when you could all of the checks coming in from the government, free medical costs and the rest — is over $50,000. Even those on welfare are comparatively rich. Even religious living by the vow of poverty are rich compared to most in the world: even though they don’t have the title personally to anything, they generally have a good, clean, safe place to live, they have electricity, indoor plumbing and running water, they have a bed to call their own, warm showers, generally three decent meals a day and food available if they needed it in the refrigerator and pantry, they have community cars, and computers, and petty cash for sundry expenses. Even thug there’s a spirit of poverty among all of these things, at a material level, the majority of people living today would long for this type of standard of living. Even with the vow of poverty, it’s possible for religious in the United States — not to mention parish priests! — to become servants of mammon rather than God, attached more to things than we are to him, concerned more with material comforts, however modest, than we are at a practical level for building up an imperishable treasure.
  • That attachment can make it very hard to follow our vocation to be saints, to “become perfect” as God intends. To be truly capable of serving the Lord, we must be liberated from attachment to mammon.  That’s why the first beatitude Jesus gave us is about spiritual poverty, that the poor in spirit are blessed because their treasure is the kingdom of God. The more we seek God, the less we’ll be tempted to make a god of the things of this world, and the more we’ll be able to sacrifice all things to obtain the pearl of great price.
  • St. Peter describes that dynamic in today’s first reading, from the beginning of his first letter to the Churches in the Christian diaspora of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. He reminds us of the treasure of the rebirth and new life brought about by Jesus’ resurrection through the “great mercy” of God. He calls in a “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” That is the treasure Jesus mentioned to the Rich Young Man we can obtain when we sell what we have, give our gifts to the poor and then come follow him. St. Peter went on to say that once we have that hunger for the imperishable and unfading inheritance it can give us the strength to sacrifice, whether it be our goods, or even our lives — and to sacrifice with joy. The first Pope alludes to the sufferings that the first Christians were undergoing and how this would purify and increase that inheritance of faith: “Although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, [this is] so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The ability to follow Jesus begins not with counting the cost of the material things or even our livelihoods and lives we may need to sacrifice for him and others but in anticipating the payoffs that will come from the treasures of the kingdom. And when we’re able to suffer the loss of our goods, even our life in this world, our faith will be proven to be more precious than God, will praise, glorify and honor God, and will radiantly draw others to the same God who has given us this new life and unfading inheritance.
  • We finish where we began with the opening prayer which is basically a paraphrase from the First Letter of St. Peter. Our reading begins with verse three, but in the first two readings we see Trinitarian link to the Collect: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen sojourners of the dispersion in the foreknowledge of God the Father, through consecration by the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ.” We can pray anew with St. Peter and with the whole Church as we ponder this connection: “O God whose mercies are numberless [who in his great mercy] and whose treasure of goodness is infinite [an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you, more precious than fire-tried gold], graciously increase the faith of the people consecrated to you [consecrated by the Spirit], so that all may worthily understand even though you do not see him now you believe in him] by what love [in whose great mercy] they were created, by what blood they were redeemed [sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ], and by what Spirit they were sanctified [consecration by the Spirit].” We ultimately receive the down payment on that imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance here at Mass when we receive God with in, and not just Jesus Christ, but through entering into communion with his divinity, with the Father and the Spirit as well. This is what is worth leaving all worldly goods behind. Embracing him is the path to following him all the way along the path of perfection.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1
1 PT 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you
who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 111:1-2, 5-6, 9 AND 10C

R. (5) The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
He has given food to those who fear him;
he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
He has made known to his people the power of his works,
giving them the inheritance of the nations.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
He has sent deliverance to his people;
he has ratified his covenant forever;
holy and awesome is his name.
His praise endures forever.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.

Gospel
MK 10:17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments:
You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother
.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
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