Divine Remuneration, 8th Tuesday (I), February 28, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
February 28, 2017
Sir 35:1-12, Ps 50, Mk 10:28-31

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today on Mardi Gras, the vigil of Lent, as we are finalizing our Lenten plans and sacrifices, the Lord through the Book of Sirach teaches us a lot about the sacrifices most pleasing to him. Sirach lists this wisdom about fitting oblations with us so that we can worship God aright. For the Jews, when they thought about sacrifices to God, they generally thought of the temple rites and a holocaust of animals, the offering showbread and cereals, of words of praise and tithes. Today God through Sirach helps them to see that the sacrifice he most wants is a life of holiness, virtue, goodness, charity. He specifies keeping the law, observing the commandments, works of charity, giving alms, refraining from evil, and avoiding injustice. He says that God seeks the pleasing offering of a just person, given with a generous spirit, cheerful countenance and a joyful heart. This is the way we would appear before the Lord, not empty handed, but with a pleasing gift. This is the way our whole being would rise as a sweet odor of incense before Him. This is the way we give back to the Lord as he has generously given to us.
  • The spirituality of self-offering Sirach describes is not one of offering bribes or extorting from God. It’s not giving to God in order to obtain something back. The reality is that God has given us everything so that, as we empty ourselves and cheerfully give everything back to him, we open ourselves to receive from him an even greater gift. The Lord, Sirach says, is one “who repays” and who “always gives back seven-f0ld.” And that seven-fold rumuneration continues to multiply as we continue to give ourselves back to him with all of his gifts.
  • This spirituality of sacrifice is the proper introduction to understand better today’s Gospel, which is the continuation of yesterday’s scene with the Rich Young Man and Jesus’ words about how hard it is to be saved. The apostles were astonished by Jesus’ description of the human impossibility of salvation — that it would be easier for a camel to fit through a needle’s eye — with the words, “We have given up everything and followed you.” In Matthew’s account, Peter adds, “What will there be for us?” The apostles had in fact done what the Rich Young Man didn’t do: they left their boats, their homes, their families, in order to give themselves and all they had to the poor and follow Jesus. They were beginning to wonder whether it was just going to be a waste if things were truly impossible. Jesus consoled Peter and the apostles by promising something far greater than the seven-fold of Sirach: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” That’s an astonishing promise on various levels. The first is the munificent return, something they will experience in the new family of the Church when the Church lives out her life as the early Church did. The second is the promise of persecution. Because of our union with Christ — the 100 fold gift and Giver! — we, too, will experience what he experienced, but this is a blessing that helps us to empty ourselves of everything, including sometimes our own life, so that his life may reign. But he doesn’t promise us a timescale or show us exactly how we will receive that 100-fold. Some may experience it in this world. Some may experience it only in guaranteed promise, like Abraham’s looking up and counting the stars in broad daylight. That’s why Jesus says, “Many that are first will be last, and the last will be first,” because some will receive it in one way and others in another and not always according to our expectation.
  • As we prepare for Lent, it’s key for us to examine whether we have in fact given up everything to follow the Lord. Prayer helps us to examine those parts of our time that are not consecrated to God. It helps us to look at our self-reliance and desire to be in control and our dependence on his providence. Almsgiving helps us to look at all we have and see it as a gift not to hoard but to be given as a participation in God’s generous providence. Fasting helps us to learn how to hunger as God hungers, to seek his will to be done, and to be grateful for his giving us each day our daily bread, the words of his mouth, and the Sacrament by which he nourishes us. These three practices help us, in short, to leave worldliness behind, our dependence on mammon, use our time, money, and desires for the good of others, so that we won’t depart from God sad but, like the apostles, follow Christ all the way so that we may be open to receive the way he gives himself all the way to us.
  • Christ never calls us to do anything he himself hasn’t done, and he left the Father’s house, he left everything, emptying himself, taking on our humanity, and offering himself on the Cross (Phil 2). Love so amazing, so divine, as we’ll sing in Lent, demands our life, our soul, our all. He wants us to be his gift, his offering, and in anticipation and response both, he gives himself. The reward that we seek is what St. Thomas Aquinas asked for when from the Crucifix Christ asked him, “You have written well of me Thomas. What will you receive as a reward?” “Nisi te, Domine,” he replied: “Nothing but you, Lord!” And when we receive Jesus we receive it all! Jesus first gives us himself and his blessings, and as we give them back to him, he gives us himself ever more.
  • This whole mystery is summarized in the offertory of the Mass. We take his gift of bread and wine and offer it back to him and he gives us Himself, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. And then we offer ourselves with Him to the Father as our logike latreia, “fitting worship” (Rom 12:1-2), and he sends us the Holy Spirit. This is the daily illustration of what he said in St. Luke’s Gospel: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Christ measures out all. We give all. He gives more. We give more. And we exist forever in this spiral of asymmetrical giving! Today we come detaching ourselves from mammon and giving ourselves to God in such a way that he may make us this day capable of keeping his law, observing his commandments, doing works of charity, giving alms, refraining from evil, avoiding injustice, offering the pleasing sacrifice of just persons, generously, cheerfully, joyfully, with our hands open to receive and share his generosity and our whole being becoming a sweet odor of incense before Him in this world so that, after the 100-fold, we may continue to praise and glorify him in eternal life!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 SIR 35:1-12

To keep the law is a great oblation,
and he who observes the
commandments sacrifices a peace offering.
In works of charity one offers fine flour,
and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise.
To refrain from evil pleases the LORD,
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the LORD empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.
The just one’s offering enriches the altar
and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.
The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.
In a generous spirit pay homage to the LORD,
be not sparing of freewill gifts.
With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,
and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously, according to your means.

For the LORD is one who always repays,
and he will give back to you sevenfold.
But offer no bribes, these he does not accept!
Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.
For he is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.

Responsorial Psalm PS 50:5-6, 7-8, 14 AND 23

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 10:28-31

Peter began to say to Jesus,
‘We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”