Oct. 11, 2015: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Click to hear Audio Homily
A couple of weeks ago at our parish mission, Fr. Cedric Pisegna mentioned about a preacher who stunned his congregation by preaching a 5-word sermon. The five words were, "Are you going to Hell?" This week, I could easily preach a 6-word homily and sit down (although I won't). The 6-words are, "How are you getting to Heaven?"
When a rich young man approached Jesus and asked the question, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life," the young man was quite certain that he had what it took to get into Paradise. The man was doing everything that his Jewish faith required and he was confident that he lived a moral life following the commandments. Yet, Jesus 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." Jesus called him to be an apostle; he called him to give up everything else in his life and follow him. Although the man didn’t realize it, there were things he possessed that he loved more than he loved God. Let’s be honest about it, when it comes to spiritual and moral matters—i.e., to matters of the soul—many people today are quite content to be minimalists!!! As we go through this life, the crucial questions are not: How can I be the person God wants me to be? How can I be holier and more virtuous? The key questions are: How much can I get away with and still not go to hell? What’s the absolute minimum I need to do as a Catholic?
Sometimes we progress in our spiritual life giving everything that God asks of us -- until the day he asks for something we are not prepared to give. Our spiritual life stalls – sometimes for years – until we are willing to respond ‘yes’. Christ calls all of us to perfection, that is, to place God above all things. Jesus said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" There’s nothing wrong with riches themselves. Abraham, Isaac, and King David were quite well-to-do. The question is – what importance do we attach to wealth? Does it rule our life? Does it keep us from being attentive to our family, friends or our faith life? Jesus promises that if we give up our own selves to follow him, he will fill our lives with himself.
The error in the young man was that he trusted in himself instead of depending on God. If we are trusting ourselves and not depending on God, we are not going to get far. It is only due to God's undeserved mercy for us that we have a shot at Heaven. Jesus is asking us to change, to let go of our attachments that keep us from following him unreservedly. Change is always a result of God’s grace and our personal choice (a continuous act of the will). We need a courageous “willingness.” Change is not just a one-time choice, it is a continual habit that we must adopt. If we do our part, God will do his part.
Question is then, what do we change? We can change our mind about how we treat people. We don't have to be unforgiving and cynical. We can change from sin. Rather than being caught in the stronghold of consistent habits of lust or selfishness, we can experience freedom and selflessness. We can change the amount of time we are preoccupied with our possessions and spend that time going deeper in Scriptures. Jesus would not have told us to change unless it was possible and attainable. What is the one small thing that you are attached to that keeps you preoccupied? Can you ask Jesus to help you let go?
-Fr. Paul Yi