Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
Reading 1 EPH 2:1-10
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
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.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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.”
Today’s Gospel reminded us of a day on which Pope Francis used the teaching of Jesus on this subject.
On his way home from his first big international trip as pope, he was asked about homosexuality in the Catholic Church.
“If a person is gay, seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” Francis said. “They should not be marginalized.”
Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit commentator, said Pope Francis’ remarks constituted a giant step forward.
“Anyone who says nothing has changed in the church today is nuts,” Martin said on his Twitter account. “From ‘no gay priests’ in 2005 to ‘who am I to judge’ is a sea change.”
We all have problems. We are not happy with many things in life. We are not pleased with this person or that person. We cannot stand this person’s character. We are not even happy with ourselves. We feel that society or people are not fair to us. We want to fight for our rights in the name of justice, as this man did in the gospel, asking Jesus to arbitrate in an inheritance dispute. “A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied ‘Who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’”
What is the real problem? It is this. We do not see beyond our problems and everything in perspective. We are only interested to solve it directly. The truth is that we need to look at bigger issues. We need to get to the root by analyzing the real cause of our dissatisfaction and unhappiness. This was what Jesus did. He refused to settle the question raised by the man. Instead, He helped the man situate his thirst for justice in a broader perspective.
The crux of the issue is not about justice but true happiness in life. What are you living for in life? What brings real happiness? Is wealth everything even if we have them? What really matters in life? To answer these questions, we need to search deeper into ourselves why we are unhappy and always dissatisfied.
What causes unhappiness? It boils down to insecurity. We live in fear of tomorrow. We are afraid we will never have enough. We want to control our lives. We are afraid of suffering, that we might not have enough to live on comfortably. This is understandable because the survival instinct is in our genes. But this causes undue anxiety and tension.
For some, it is because of greed and selfishness. They want to have more and more so that they can have a luxurious life. They only think of themselves. This was what the rich man did. This is what St Paul wrote, “You were dead, through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious.”
What is the real problem? It is ignorance! Where can we find security? The truth is, security is not found in wealth and possessions. That is what Jesus said, “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.” This was what happened to the rich man when he thought he had made it. Jesus called him a fool! The man said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” And Jesus remarked, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?”
Neither is happiness found in possessions. Wealth is not ours. What we have are meant to be used for the service of love. Bringing joy and love to others’ lives is real and lasting happiness because it goes beyond oneself. When we live only for ourselves, we cannot find happiness. Only when we share the goods we have, are we enriched. Wealth therefore is never an end in itself but only a means. When we do not distribute that wealth, we will live in guilt and be deprived of the double joy of giving.
Thirdly, no amount of worldly pleasures can satisfy us, as the first reading tells us, because we are also spiritual beings. Instead of being free for love, we become self-centered. Often, worldly pleasure leads to all kinds of sin and self-destruction. Eating and drinking too much will lead not only to destruction of physical health but also spiritual life and emotional life. It leads to dullness of mind, weakness to lust and greed. Indeed, St Paul remarked, “We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world.”
So the key to happiness is to live a virtuous life. This is what Jesus said, “So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.” All possessions, material or personal, are means to grow in virtue when we use them for others. Only love brings happiness. Only when we have a clear conscience and recognize that we are but stewards of God, using our resources wisely, can we then find peace and joy. Ill-gotten gains will only destroy the peace in us.
What, then, is required to live a life of contentment? We need to trust in divine providence. The psalmist says, we are His sheep. “Know that he, the Lord is God. He made us, we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” He is in charge of our lives. Indeed, God has always been generous towards us, as St Paul said, “But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.”
Whatever we do cannot earn the love of God. Everything is given to us as grace. So we only need to respond to that grace by utilizing all we have for His greater glory and to become His gift to others through our works of love by simply being the person we are, filled with His love and mercy. This is what Paul wrote, “This was to show for all ages to come, though his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.”
Coming back to the question of justice which the man posed to Jesus, what, then, would be the response of Jesus? Most probably He would have said, “leave it be”. Even if he had the property, he would not be happy. And even if the one who cheated him appears to have the better of it, he would have no peace and happiness anyway. Better show our magnanimity and detachment than allow money to be a cause of our unhappiness and anger. That is why Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount told us to give the cloak to one who asked, and to one who slaps us, to offer the other cheek. Non-violence and letting go is the way to finding peace and joy. We must transcend the pettiness and selfishness of our enemies so that we can inspire them to find the way to true happiness and life. When we respond with love, they will be converted sooner or later.
So let us live a good and righteous life. Let us grow in virtues, of love, integrity and compassion. He will take care of us. With the psalmist we say, “Indeed, how good is the Lord, eternal his merciful love. He is faithful from age to age.” We only have to cooperate with His grace. Let us live life with a larger perspective in view of eternity and true happiness.
From Our Archives for Luke 12: 13-21 (From July 31, 2016)
The Gospel, today from Saint Luke, reminds once more that we should always keep our eyes on death, on the life of the world to come, so that our actions in this life will be guided by the eternal realities that await us.
It is so easy for us Christian to be seduced by the values of this world because they seem so pleasant and bring such pleasure. The challenge is to keep our eyes on Jesus and allow ourselves to be formed by what He had told us. Far too many teachers today preach a Gospel which is not from Jesus but is simply a Gospel of the values of this world. For us who accept that Jesus is always in His Church, we have the guidance of the Church to help us stay on the right path. Again, many today want the Church to adjust to the values of this world. Let us walk with the Lord Jesus and with His Church.
Your brother in the Lord,
Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 31, 2016 — Are we striving to be rich in what matters to God? (The Book of Ecclesiastes simply reminds us that everything in this world passes away except spiritual reality.)
Tags: eat drink be merry, eph 2:1-10, for though one may be rich one’s life does not consist of possessions, gay clergy, gay priests, homosexuality in the Catholic Church, Lk 12:13-21, October 17 2016, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 100, rich in what matters to God, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Take care to guard against all greed, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me, Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God, who am I to judge, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator, You fool this night your life will be demanded of you