Monday, May 28, 2007

This Rich Young Country: a Memorial Day Meditation

Today's gospel reading at Mass (Mark 7:10-27) tells the story of the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus thinking that he had it all "in the bag." He was religiously conscious and somewhat conscientious.

So, he was surprised when Jesus said that there was one other thing he needed to do.... give up his riches to the poor and follow Jesus. He went away sad because he was very rich. He had a bad case of "Affluenza."

I sat in Mass this morning and thought about the state of our country. And I became sad also.

I remain thankful for those who have in the past and continue to this day giving their lives for this country, regardless of the justification or lack thereof for our making war in Iraq. These women and men in our armed forces are laying down their lives for their brothers and sisters, just what Jesus asked us to do.

However, I become sad whenever I think of what this country of ours represents and that God is just in giving recompense. He will call us to account for the gifts He has given. We are the inheritors of vast portions from the world's material wealth. We have been given so very much.

And yet we continue to squander our lives and fortunes in the pursuit of more money, more sex and more power. The third (or fourth) car, the bigger house, the better job, the next conquest all take their place at the top of our minds.

Where is God in all of this?

The vast resources of this great land could be used to help so many, both in our own land and throughout the world. Yet, self absorbtion and self defense as well as self gratification appear to have become the moral norm.

I can only pray and thank God that His Son still issues the call, "Come, follow me."

Will this country listen?

Here is a stirring homily on just this subject from one of the greatest preachers of all time,

Saint John Chrysostom i.e. "Golden Mouth" (around 345-407), Bishop of Antioch, then of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church
He wrote about and against the riches and corruption of the Eastern Roman Empire and often got into trouble for it. But he was very popular with the crowds who flooded the churches to hear him preach. You'll see why. He gets to the heart of the matter.

Homily 63 on Matthew “What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"It was no small forwardness that the young man had shown; he was a man with great desires. While others were coming to Jesus to put him to trial or to ask him to cure their diseases, or those of other people, this young man comes to him to talk about eternal life.
He was like fertile, rich land, but there were thorns there too, ready to choke the seeds (Mt 13:7). Look how he is ready to obey the commandments: "What must I do," he says, "to inherit eternal life?"

... This was not the feeling of any of the Pharisees; they grew furious when their mouths were stopped. But not so this man; he goes away downcast, which is no little sign that he had come not with an evil will but with one too feeble.

He did indeed desire life but was held in subjection by another, most grievous desire... "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me ... At this statement, he went away sorrowful."

After this the evangelist shows why he felt this way by saying, "He had many possessions." For those who have little are not equally held in subjection by their possessions as those who overflow with affluence, for then the love of it becomes more tyrannical.

The increase of acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders those who possess them poorer; it puts them in greater desire and makes them feel more their “want”. See what strength this passion exhibited here... "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" Not that Christ blames wealth but those who are held in subjection by it."

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