Archive for August, 2013
There is a question that has always nagged believers like us: Will there be many or few people saved? During certain periods this problem became so acute as to cause some people terrible anxiety, restlessness, depression and despair. More especially when they are in danger of death due to sickness and old age.
This Sunday’s Gospel informs us that Jesus himself was once asked this question: ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved?’
The question, as we see, focuses on the number — How many will be saved? Will it be many or few? In answering the question, Jesus shifts the focus from “how many” to “how” to be saved.
Jesus’ way of responding to these questions is not strange or discourteous. He is just acting in the way of one who wants to teach his disciples how to move from curiousity to wisdom; from idle question to real problem; from petty to essential issue that we need to grapple with in life
Again, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is not so much interested in revealing to us the number of the saved but how to be saved.
Have you ever asked yourselves the following questions? How can I possess eternal life? How can I enter the kingdom of heaven? How can I be saved? These questions really matter when it comes to the issue of ultimate destiny. These are the kind of questions we need to address now and always. Else we will compromise both our future and present, our life here on earth and hereafter.
St. Thomas Aquinas, who has been honored as Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor by the Catholic Church, has given us a beautiful answer to all the relevant questions? He wrote: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do” (Two Precepts of Charity ).
Let us discuss these three things a bit deeper:
First, to know what we ought to believe. This refers to the need to have faith in Jesus. “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation”: so teaches the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Dei Filius (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, 3012). Why? Because “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15).
Second, to know what we ought to desire. What is the deepest longing of our heart? The Catechism (see CCC 1729) teaches: “The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: happiness or blessedness (Mt 25:21,23; cf. CCC 1719), the coming of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 4:17), eternal life (Jn 17:3; cf. Mk 10:30), seeing God face to face or beatific vision (Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 3:2; 1 Cor 13:12), sharing in his divine nature (2 Pt 1:4; St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres. 3, 19), filiation or (John 11:52), and rest in God (cf. Heb 4:7-11). ; see also Cf. CCC 1720). Simply said, “Do you aspire for a happy and intimate communion with God with his angels and saints in the kingdom of heaven for eternity?”
Third, to know what we ought to do. The kingdom of God is intended for all men and women of all generations and nations. But to enter the kingdom of God words are not enough, deeds are necessary such as:
Repentance. “Unless you change and humble yourself like a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” “From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else. This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father” (CCC 268).
- · Detachment from possessions and relations. “The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven” (CCC 2544).
- Observance of the Ten Commandments. “Whoever fulfills and teaches these commandments shall be great in the kingdom of God” (Mt 5:19). The Parable of the Rich Young Man reminds us of the permanent validity of the Ten Commandments as essential to one’s salvation.
- · Observance of the the Commandment of Love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. It is not surprising, therefore, to hear Jesus giving his disciples a new commandment of love before he left them: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-5).”
“God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). He is “forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish” (2 Pt 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
The new millennium has witnessed and continues to witness various and different faces of violence, division and situations of unpeace. Hardly any day passes that we do not hear the sad news of violent aggression and brutality unleashed against innocent people somewhere around the world. To make matters worse, perpetrators of these acts of violence often try to justify these atrocities by claiming that they are fighting a holy war in God’s name. Think of the crusades, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Today’s readings are indeed a call to war: not a war against other people but a war against sin and evil; not a war against people we perceive as evil, but a war against the evil one, the devil.
Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. This is a disturbing word knowing Jesus as the Prince of Peace who has come “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79) and to dispense peace “among those whom he favors” (Lk 2:14) Here he makes it clear that he cast fire and brings division rather than peace. In Matthew’s parallel verse (10:34), Jesus brings a sword.
Is Jesus contradicting himself on his teachings about love peace and unity? Is Jesus contradicting himself the fourth precept of the Decalogue or Ten Commandment which is, “Honor your father and mother!” Certainly not. Jesus, in saying those paradoxiCal words, did not intend to destroy family and other human relations, ties and institutions. Rather he was only telling his disciples, in a forceful language, the following:
First, to choose and to follow Jesus is a matter of personal choice. No can one can make decision for us. Not even the Church or the State. Not even our family. And when we choose, either we choose and follow Jesus or reject him. There is no middle way. There is no half-way. There is no other alternative. There is no other option. Please bear in mind that our sanctification and salvation depend on the kind of choice we make. Choose God and you choose life, happiness and peace.
Second, if we opted to choose and follow Jesus then our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to him must be urgent, exclusive and unparalleled. When it comes to hierarchy of values and priorities in life, God always takes precedence over possessions and relations. To choose and follow Jesus only and always may sometimes bring division and conflict. This is the necessary consequence and cost of following Jesus. This substantially explains the paradoxical words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Third, Jesus’ message of love, peace and unity does not necessarily mean that we compromise with evil and tolerates injustices and wrong-doings. Peace and unity that we rightly desire can be achieved not by compromise, force and violence but by doing the will of God for us and through us. Let this Christian moral principles always guide us: Do good and hate sin! Love sinner and hate evil!
In today’s Mass, Jesus invites all of us to examine who we love first and foremost. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)? A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin because it is possible that family and friends can become our enemies when they prevent and hinder us from following and serving the Lord.
Let our “faith in God leads us to turn to him alone as our first origin and our ultimate goal, and neither to prefer anything to him nor to substitute anything for him” (CCC 229).
In the preceding parable, Jesus warned us against unreadiness and extolled the value of wathcfulness, vigilance and readiness. While, in the proceeding parable he dramatically shifted to another metaphor in which he compares his Second Coming to the unexpected arrival of a thief. He said to his disciples, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Lk 12:14). The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour, like a thief at night. And he will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead.
In that Day of Judgment at the Parousia or when the call of death arrives, “each one of us shall give account of himself or herself to God” (Romans 14:12) as a steward of the gifts of nature and the blessings and graces of God. What is a steward? A steward in ancient culture was a slave who was left in charge of domestic affairs when the master was away (16:1; 1 Cor 4:4-5; Michel 1967:149-51). The steward’s major responsibility was to care for the other servants’ welfare, especially to allot food to them. Food might be handed out daily, weekly or monthly. A steward’s job was to serve, not to exercise power. This may well be why Jesus uses the image (Manson 1957:118).
What kind of steward God expects us? God expects Christian as accountable, faithful and productive stewards of God’s grace and gifts of creation, life, body, talents and skills and wealth and possession.
Negatively, in order that the Lord will find us responsible, faithful and productive stewards when he comes in glory, let us avoid some of these pitfalls and mistakes while awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior:
· First, complacency that Jesus’ return is not yet imminent.
· Second, idleness or sloth. Doing nothing.
· Third, gross negligence in the performance of duties.
· Fourth, procrastination. Always postponing to another day what can be done for today.
· Fourth, abuse of power and position and squandering of resources.
· Fifth, manana habit. Only good in beginning. Lack of perseverance.
Positively, let us religiously perform the tasks require of us and fulfill our role as stewards of God’s gifts and graces:
· First, protect, preserve and conserve all Gods’ gifts entrusted to us.
· Second, develop to the maximum all the spiritual, material and physical resources entrusted to our care.
· Third, communicate and share all the fruits and benefits of the gifts and talents we preserved, developed and cultivated.
Good stewards will be generously rewarded while bad stewards will be severely punished and will suffer a great loss. “The reward or punishment will be proportioned to the powers, gifts, opportunities, and knowledge of the offenders.” As scripture says: ‘everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required’; cf. Mt 5:19-20; 7:21-22; 25:41-46; Jas 2:14.
Friends, if and when the Lord comes now, do you think will he find you responsible, faithful and productive stewards or lazy, abusive and unfaithful stewards. Can you give him an account of your stewardship? Remember, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity” (Gladiator Poster).
So far as we are informed, the rich man mentioned in the scriptures who died while his barns were bulging with goods that he couldn’t use was not an evil man. Jesus didn’t say that he was dishonest, immoral, or lazy. The man was rich prior to the harvest, and the harvest simply increased his wealth. Certainly, he appears to have been very successful in his occupation. He must have been an intelligent and industrious worker to have accumulated such a great amount of wealth. The Lord didn’t call him a sinner; he merely said he was a fool.
Why such harsh condemnation? The man is a fool “because he has forgotten how the saying goes, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.‘ The saying applies strictly in his case; he will die during the night that begins the new day. Therefore, his grand plans are worthless” (Tannehill, 206).
Was this not a provident man who had worked hard all his life, saved his money and invested wisely, and now deserved to retire in comfort? Where had he failed?
First, the rich failed to restrain his obsession for possession and wealth. In the story we are told that he was so obsessed to hoard more, to possess more and to acquire more not knowing that death awaits him and caught him by surprised and, therefore, he was unprepared for his untimely death. And that costs him his soul. Indeed “Greed never rests from the acquiring of more” (On Love of Wealth 1 [Mor. 523 E]; L. T. Johnson 1991:198) until death puts a stop to it.
Second, he had failed to recognize the principle of stewardship. In his eyes, they were his barns, his fruits, his goods. He had forgotten, if he ever knew, that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, that every material thing we possess is by His sufferance and only temporarily.
Possessions or wealth are stewardship, not to be hoarded selfishly but to be used to benefit those around us. Jesus is not saying possessions are bad, but that the selfish pursuit of them is pointless. When the creation is inverted, the value of possessions is distorted. Those who climb over people or ignore them in the pursuit of possessions will come up empty on the day God sorts out our lives. What a tragic misuse of the gift of resources this man had gained! What could have been an opportunity for generosity and blessing became a stumbling block to the soul.
Third, having forgotten that, it was only natural that his use of his wealth was so self-centered. The hint of his problem lies in the man’s use of the first-person pronoun. Go through the parable and circle the words “I” and “my” to get a sense of the man’s self-absorption. In his short conversation with himself, he uses the word “I” six times and the word “my” five times. There is no thought of a bonus for his hired hands or a service project for his community. There is no word of thanksgiving to God for this tremendous harvest. Everything is “I” and “my.”
All of it was to go into his enlarged barn for his ease. One commentator writes, It is mischievous error with which he starts, “I have not where to bestow my fruits”; and St. Ambrose has answered well, “Thou HAST barns, – the bosoms of the needy, – the houses of the widows – the mouths of orphans and of infants.” (Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p. 341) There was no thought of sharing, no concern for the poor, no awareness of brotherhood.
What is this rich fool guilty of? He is guilty of greed or avarice which he greatly manifested by his self-absorption and obsession for possession and wealth. Greed, an inordinate desire for material things, is one of the seven deadly sins. An avaricious person offends against justice and charity and becomes insensitive to the needs of his neighbor, so keen is he on his self-aggrandizement. “If you are inclined to avarice,” say St Francis de Sales, “think of its folly: it makes us slaves to that which was intended to serve us. Remember how we must leave everything when we die; perhaps those who get our wealth then will only squander it, and even to their ruin” (“Introduction to the Devout Life”, 4, 10). To use of the words of St. Paul, he is guilty of the love of money which is the root of all evil (see cf. 1 Tm 6:10).
Greed is an insidious trap that has the power to destroy those whose obsession for wealth and possession becomes the driving force of their lives. Greed is the devious, sinister, evil influence that makes people say, ‘What I have is not enough. I must have more. So that I will be more.’
Greed or avarice is the great cancer eating out the heart of mankind; and the Lord in his teaching here moved to lead men away from it. Human wants are insatiable; and getting only adds to the appetite for more. Paul associated it with moral uncleanness (Ephesians 4:19), calling it “idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). It is an evil that destroys man’s life here and hereafter.
“Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life.” What does it profit a man if gains the whole world and loses his soul? Hence, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).