Sunday, October 11, 2015

Wisdom: I loved her more than health or beauty, preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps

The readings for this Sunday teach with eloquence and power; we need such in the midst of uncertainty and trial. The rich young man from Mark's Gospel today always strikes me, but I'd like to share a couple of the thoughts which came to me today in particular.

‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
  Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

The fullness of Catholic Truth has never compromised itself by adhering to what is often referred to as the "prosperity gospel". The Church at its healthiest has never seen any particular favor associated with living high on the hog. Jesus Himself in His own words gives us from the mouth of Abraham the explanation as to why Lazarus found consolation in heaven after his suffering and deprivation here on earth whereas the rich man traded his sumptuous banquets and self-indulgence for the unrelenting fires of hell. So too the rich young man of good morals; he would not place himself under the Cross; he would not abandon self reliance based on material goods for the high road in the footsteps of the Eternal High Priest and Universal King.

The thought came to me today, however, that it's not enough to mimic the poverello, to be an Assisi type. At age 65 I have already met too many who live poor, go about subdued, practically with little more than the threadbare clothes on their backs, who remain willful and unflinching about fashioning their own present and future, far from bending under God's Almighty Hand. Granted, Jesus asked the young man to sell all and give to the poor, but not without putting himself unconditionally in Christ's train. As earnest as one's poverty can be, I am sorry, but it is naught without charity, without Christ's love drawing us on in the fragrance of His robes.

Today's first reading centers on prayer and insistent supplication, pleading from God for the gift of the spirit of Wisdom. St. Francis certainly courted Lady Poverty and embraced Sister Death, but his self abnegation was not a self serving asceticism, but proceeded in lock-step with his haste to follow his Lord. Happy the poor, for with lightened load and no strings attached they can follow Jesus, the God Man on His Way to the Father.

Some people say that modernism is raising its ugly head within the Church with a determination perhaps unrivaled since the error was first pointed out and rebuked by Pope Saint Pius X. Moral relativism and indifference to the truth as it comes to us from God are rampant. Quare fremuerunt gentes, et populi meditati sunt inania? Astiterunt reges terrae, et principes convenerunt in unum adversus Dominum et adversus christum eius... (Psalm 2).

None of us, on the basis of somebody else's bad example or tepidity, can find an excuse for not living the fullness of Gospel Truth. My secret hope has always been that the rich young man met Jesus again on Calvary and then Risen and Glorious, hence prompted to break the last ties of his own willfulness which kept him from Christ's embrace. I'm praying a lot for the Catholic Church in Switzerland and Liechtenstein these days, not so much for its poverty as for its freedom from all sorts of bonds which hold it back... because everything is possible for God.

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