This Sunday we celebrate Christ the Wisdom and Word of God. Even if we have nothing in this world, Christ is sufficient and all things for us. We are rich in him because, he is alive and active in our hearts and we must give priority to God in our lives, not to our possessions.
Today’s Readings remind us that we should not possess anything in our life which we would refuse to surrender to the Lord. These things often possess us, and we become the prisoners of our possessions when we give our “things” top priority in our lives. Thus, we violate the First Great Commandment, “You shall not have other gods beside me” which demands that we give absolute and unconditional priority to God.
The first Reading advises us to use the God-given virtue of prudence and to seek true wisdom rather than to seek vanishing realities like riches or political and social influences. Solomon chose Wisdom before everything else. But when he accepted Wisdom, he received everything else along with her. Since Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate, when we put following Jesus ahead of everything else, we receive everything else along with Jesus.
The second Reading warns us that we are accountable before God as to how we use our blessings and that the “living and effective word of God” must be our guide in evaluating our use of God’s blessings.
Our second Reading, the Letter to the Hebrews, describes the word of God as: “a double-edged sword that cuts across the bones.” Through this, it simply reminds us that the word of God is the ultimate and irresistible power through which God reaches and enriches us, conquers and transforms every heart that humbly receives it. It brings our real thoughts and intentions to light, and also dispels all forms of darkness. It powerfully convinces, converts, transforms and comforts us. God’s Word humbles a proud heart. It makes a perverse spirit to be meek and humble. It increases virtue in a humble heart.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching on the dangers of attachment to riches and the rewards awaiting those who put Jesus and the Good News before their earthly ambitions. Here we find three sections: a narrative about Jesus’ encounter with a rich man, Jesus’ sayings about wealth as a possible obstacle to discipleship, and Jesus’ promised reward for those who share material possessions with the needy.
A rich man encounters Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, in today’s Gospel, and Jesus reminds him of the commandments which deal with our relationships with other people, challenging him to sell what he has and to give the money to the poor. Jesus’ challenge exposes two missing pieces in the rich man’s life: a sense of compassion for the poor and a willingness to share his blessings with the needy. Jesus shocks the disciples with this challenge to the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity are signs of God’s blessings, while poverty and difficulties signal his displeasure.
Instead, Jesus declares that true religion consists in sharing one’s blessings with others rather than hoarding them and/or getting inordinately attached to them. Jesus’ teaching exposes the shallowness of our own easy assumptions about wealth and raises questions about the real basis of our security and hopes.
There are important lessons to learn from today’s Readings. Firstly, we might have a weak spot unknown to us. Only the wisdom of God can help us illuminate this. Secondly, at times, it seems to us that we have done “all things well.” Unfortunately, pride and love of this world makes it difficult for us to see the true reality of our lives. Thirdly, we must not allow material wealth to become an obstacle between us and eternal life.
Today, Christ teaches us that attachment to wealth is the easiest way to forsake God. This is because attachment to wealth and this world, over burdens and alienates one’s soul. It makes our spiritual journey very heavy, difficult, and almost impossible.
The Church advises that we should make a check list of our prioritized attachments, and give God priority. The question is: Are anger, lust, gluttony, evil habits and addictions, jealousy, holding grudges, infidelity, cheating, our priorities? Let us invite God into our lives daily by praying for the strengthening grace and anointing of his Holy Spirit so that we may give God priority.
We need to accept the invitation to generous sharing for Jesus’ generosity led to his free gifts of his very self to save our lives eternally. The crucifix is “Exhibit A.” To follow Jesus, we must have the same kind of generosity, and be willing to give our money, time, and talents away to serve the needs of others. In the heart of every Christian there should be a desire to give. God does not have to extort money from those who love him. God does not ask us to give up our riches, but he does ask us to use them wisely in his service. We must manage our possessions wisely, so that they do not gain control over our hearts.
Let us also ask the question: “How do I use my talents?” God gives each of us a special skill. Hence, they are not really ours. He lends them to us to be used in this world. How do we use our talents? What about time – do we use it for God? We each get 168 hours every week. How do we use our time? Are we too busy to pray each day? Do we pray for others’ needs as well as our own?
Finally, we all have something in our lives which acts as a major obstacle to happiness and peace. We must recognize this obstacle and address it head-on. It may not be riches — it may be anger, jealousy, holding grudges, alcohol, drugs, lust, apathy, lies, unfaithfulness, theft, or fraud. Let us invite God into our lives and into our efforts to face and remove that one obstacle to holiness. We have a decision to make: whether to go away sad like the rich young man, or to follow Jesus and be happy. Let us choose happiness. God bless us.
Fr. Jude CSSp