Fr. Mike’s Tuesday homily for the 20th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I (1)

Fr. Mike’s Tuesday homily for the 20th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I

Theme: We are made rich through generosity

By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

Homily: Mt 19:23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Fr. Mike’s Tuesday homily for the 20th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I

Theme: We are made rich through generosity

By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

Homily: Mt 19:23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

The teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel comes as a shock, not only to the disciples but to all His listeners as well. This runs counter to the long-held belief – cultural and religious – among the Jews that material wealth is a sign of God’s favor. For instance, in Deut. 8:18, it says, “But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today”.

And secondly, by His own example, Jesus shows that being rich is not wrong or bad. In fact, he has many friends and supporters who are rich. For instance, the women who, out of their own resources, supported Him and His disciples. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Zacchaeus and the Roman centurion are rich. He did not even stop Mary of Bethany in her extravagant show of wealth when she took a pound of expensive ointment and poured it all on His feet (Jn 12:1-8).

Is Jesus contradicting Himself by giving this teaching? To answer this, it is helpful to clarify what the Lord means by the word ‘rich.’ We must take into account the context of this Gospel teaching. In the preceding verses, which is yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus encountered a rich young man. He wanted to gain perfection and eternal life. But he went away sad, for, unwilling to let go of his wealth, he cannot follow Jesus.

Jesus, therefore, is not referring to all rich people. He takes the case of this rich young man as an example of being rich that is dangerous to one’s spiritual life. To be rich, therefore, as Jesus means here, is to wallow in wealth and excess in the midst of the extreme poverty and need of those around.

This brings to mind the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man is condemned to eternal fire, not because he did something evil or bad. Rather, his is the sin of omission: he did not lift a finger to help Lazarus lying in destitution at his gate while he enjoyed all the comfort and luxury in his house every single day. This is actually the ultimate basis on which we are to be judged at the Last Day: “I was hungry, and you did not give me food, I was thirsty and you did not give me drink…” (Mt 25). This kind of rich people will find it almost impossible to enter the heavenly kingdom, just like a camel trying to get through the eye of a needle.

The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is love. And love is all about self-giving – an outward movement towards others. There is absolutely no room for selfishness, which is an inward movement towards the self. And so anyone who is selfish cannot truly love, and thereby cannot find real happiness and salvation.

The importance of this teaching cannot be overemphasized, especially nowadays that materialism, consumerism and greed reign supreme in our society. The Gospel today reminds us that our life is made rich, not by what we possess, but by what we share from the generosity of our hearts.

We are, therefore, challenged by the Gospel today to practice detachment from material things so that we can be generous towards God and neighbors. Then we can be assured of God’s abundant rewards: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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