Mercy and the Means to Perfection, 8th Monday (I), February 27, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for Persecuted Christians
February 27, 2017
Sir 17:20-24, Ps 32, 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 Sirach continues to train us in the font of divine wisdom and stresses for us the wisdom of recognizing how much we need God’s mercy, how much we need to acknowledge our sins, turn away from them and begin to turn with God in our mind, heart, soul and strength. He reminds us:
    • God provides a way back for the penitent.
    • God has chosen us for the “lot of truth” not for living a lie.
    • God wants to help us to turn “away from your sin” and “to the Most High.”
    • He wants to help us “hate intensely what [God] loathes.’
    • He wants to help us “stand firm” in the way set before us, which is a way of prayer and praise for the most high, praise of his mercy, praise of the wondrous things he does us. “You who are alive and well shall praise and glorify God in his mercies,” he says. “How great the mercy of the Lord, his forgiveness for those who return to him,” he exclaims. One of the reasons why we’re alive, he says, is because the dead in their sins can’t praise God for his mercy. God wants to help us remain alive so that, as the Psalms say, we can sing of his mercy forever.
  • That wisdom is a key prism to understanding the scene of Jesus’ interaction with the young man in the Gospel. The man was seeking heaven, what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him to keep the commandments, which help us to learn how to love God and love others. And the young man replied that he had kept them all from his youth. He was at least externally keeping the commandments. He seemed not to be committing any serious sins. But Jesus, looking at him with merciful love on the inside, said that he was lacking one thing — sin is a privation of good! — and told him “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” What he lacked was poverty of spirit. What he “lacked” was that he had too much stuff and it had enslaved him.
  • Yesterday in the Gospel taken from St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded us we cannot serve two Masters, God and mammon. We needed to choose. And when the rich young man was given a choice between Jesus and his material goods, he chose the latter and “went away sad, because he had many possessions.” Mammon and “amen” come from the same semitic word root. Amen means to uphold, to build upon. At first mammon was like collateral given in exchange for a loan, but over time it developed into a “trust,” and people began to place their faith, hope, love and security in such a trust rather than in God, his Word, his providence, etc. This young man’s essential sin was his love of money — the root of all evil — to the exclusion of God where God needed to be. That’s why he went away sad. That’s why it’s hard for those who are rich to enter God’s kingdom, because the more stuff we have, the more we can place our security in it, the less we can recognize that we lack the type of spiritual poverty necessary to open ourselves up to God. To fit through the eye of the needle, we need to do the humanly impossible, which is to trust in God to the extent that we can do what Jesus asked the rich young man, to entrust ourselves to the God who cares for the lilies and the sparrows, who knows what we need, and who will always provide. We likewise need to be willing to use all that God has given us — not just our money, but our time and personal gifts — for others if we’re really going to be able to follow Christ fully and freely.
  • Today Jesus looks on us with love and gives us his word and himself. He became poor, as our Alleluia verse reminds us, so that by his poverty we might become rich. And he shows us what those real riches are: himself and the charity that he inspires and makes possible. He wants us, like Sirach encouraged, to recognize our lack of spiritual poverty, or chastity, or obedience, and learn that true wealth, love and freedom comes from God and is meant to be used for God and in God for others. He encourages us to come to meet him and not leave sad, but joyful, because from the inside he seeks to help us enter into him, pass through the needle’s eye and inherit eternal life where we hope with the angels and saints to sing forever of God’s merciful love.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 SIR 17:20-24

To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin,
hate intensely what he loathes,
and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you,
in prayer to the Most High God.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High
in place of the living who offer their praise?
Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly,
but offer your praise before death.
No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived;
You who are alive and well
shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD,
his forgiveness of those who return to him!

Responsorial Psalm PS 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (11a) Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.

Alleluia 2 COR 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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.”