YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Homily TOPIC: KEY TO FREEDOM AND HAPPINESS
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 10:17-30
Message # 137: “The Miracle of the Sun”
(TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
1. The Marian Message
a. The Blessed Mother recalls the miracle of the sun that took place in Fatima. It is undeniable for it was witnessed by thousands of people. She reminds us about obedience to God’s laws: “Even the sun, like all the beings in creation, behaves in obedience to the laws of God” (letter d). She tells us that her victory will consist in bringing men back to “a docile obedience to the will of our God” (letter e).
b. The sun is the source of light (letter f). It drives away darkness and gives warmth and life to all. The world needs light, so that the darkness of sin and error will be driven away. The true source of light is Jesus who “shines in the souls of all my children” (letter i). “And so, the miracle of the sun…was but a sign” of the action of the Blessed Mother “to set burning in the hearts of all men the light of Jesus, the true Sun of the world” (letter l).
c. That is why the Blessed Mother insists that there is no more need for the miracle to be repeated. She repeats the miracle of the sun every day – when she brings her children away from sin, and towards a life of prayer and holiness so that “the sun of my Son Jesus” “shines ever more brightly in your souls and your lives” (letter k).
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. The key question is: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer has been outlined by the Blessed Mother in her message: follow Jesus, obey God’s will. The rich young man had everything in life – wealth, prestige, youth and everything. But he must have felt something lacking deep within him, some kind of emptiness in his soul. He heard something about eternal life, but it seemed so vague for him. He tried to follow all the commandments, but his motivation for doing so was suspect. His question is an all- important question that every person must ask. But for him, it was just a casual question, the answer of which he was not really serious in pursuing. When Jesus gave him the answer, he could not take it seriously, and he went away sad.
b. “Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing.’ Jesus reads the hearts of men. He knew the longing in the heart of the young man. He also saw the great potentials in him if he would only submit his life totally to God. He wanted him to find a truly meaningful and happy life, a life not based on passing things such as wealth and material things, but a life in God. That one thing that he lacked was total detachment from things, or freedom from the encumbrance of worldly things in order to follow Jesus more closely and faithfully.
c. “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” For any man of the world, this advice is totally absurd and senseless. For a person whose life is based on wealth and material things, it cannot be taken seriously. And that was precisely what happened in the case of this rich young man. He simply could not detach himself from these material things because these were the one that gave him life and value. In short, his life was based on ephemeral realities such as wealth and worldly things, which soon dissipate.
d. The rich young man had two major defects, which made it impossible for him to follow Jesus. First, he was a worldly man who was chronically attached to material things. That is the initial assessment on his personality. But going deeper, it translates to lack of trust in God. He could not detach himself from material things because these were the center of his life, not God. His relied totally on his material riches, and not on God. Losing these will make him miserable. So he could not afford to let go of these. It is true that he had observed all the commandments of God since his youth. But this observance was obviously superficial and self- serving. He must have prayed and obeyed God’s commandments in order to gain more wealth, but not really to follow the will of God. He worshipped money as his god.
e. The second defect of the young man is his selfishness. When told to go and sell his properties and give the money to the poor, he could not do it, and went away sad. That is always the effect of selfishness. Nobody is really happy being selfish. This young man was obviously selfish. He followed the commandments of God; he did not dare violate them. But he did not also dare doing something more for God and his fellowmen. It is the classic case of doing nothing wrong, and also doing nothing good. And he could not give away even a fraction of his wealth to the poor. He did not really care about the poor. Definitely, he did not steal, but he could not also share. A selfish person cannot learn to truly love. Love is self- giving, that is, giving not only what one has, but also giving himself totally to the beloved. So the young man, being selfish, totally attached to material things, and lacking trust in God, could not follow Jesus. Eternal life was impossible for him to attain. So he went away very sad.
f. “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God…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.” Jesus said these words not to condemn the rich. Rather these words should be viewed as a strong warning so that the rich will not end up in eternal misery. Ever since, the Jews viewed material riches as God’s blessings. But when these become the sole motivation and ambition of a person, they soon turn into a poison and a curse. The best way to handle wealth is to have a healthy detachment from them, and to use them to help others and to serve God. That person, then, becomes God’s channel of His graces and blessings for other people. Jesus warns the rich, because he also loved them; he does not want them to go to eternal damnation. Money and wealth make it hard for a person to enter heaven because it is too easy to lose sight of the heavenly riches when one’s eyes are preoccupied with material riches. He would invariably think that this world is heaven already, and therefore, he may not anymore strive for the everlasting kingdom. When one is wealthy, he becomes powerful, and it becomes easy to exploit and manipulate other people. And when one is wealthy, it is also easy to feel self- sufficient and forget God and others, and even to think that he is God.
g. Jesus promised bountiful rewards for those who learned to give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom: “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age…and eternal life in the age to come.” This is the reward of total obedience to God’s will. Giving up everything to follow the will of God will gain us everything, for He is the source of everything. Unfortunately, many people do not take these words of Jesus seriously. They simply cannot comprehend the truth of this formula, for worldliness has blurred their vision of the eternal realities.
3. Points for Reflection
a. People naturally desire to be rich. That is why many people buy lotto tickets or go to the casino, hoping to get the big jackpot. But even based on the experience of the big lotto winners, being wealthy is a big challenge and risk. In several studies in the US, it was revealed that most of these big lotto winners found themselves in bigger trouble. They were pestered by relatives and friends, harassed by opportunists and thugs, taken advantage of by financial experts, and the worst is that they were not ready for the sudden big change in their life. Only a few were successful; most ended up more miserable than before. Jesus was right all along when he warned us about the dangers of wealth and money.
b. We pray and ask God for more money. God hears our prayers. He always gives us financial assistance at the right time. But usually, He will not give us more than we need; otherwise we will use them improperly and may even lead to our ruin. We will just have to rely on the eternal wisdom of God and His generous providence.
c. Detachment from material things is very important in order for us to have freedom to follow Jesus. Without detachment, we will be like a dog with a chain attached to the wall – no matter how eagerly it tries to follow its master, it cannot do so because of the chain. Detachment simply means readiness to let go of anything and everything that hinders us from following Jesus. This is just in response to the Lord’s greatest commandment: “Love God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” He even said: “He who loves mother or father, wife or children more than me is not worthy of me.” When we are ready to let go of everything, then we are free to follow Jesus.
d. There are many rich people who have the spirit of detachment. And there are also many poor people who are very much attached to material things. To be rich is not sinful; to be poor is not always virtuous. It all depends on how one deals with material things. A rich person can be generous, humble and obedient. There were many great saints who were kings, queens and princes. But Jesus warns us that it is much difficult, though not impossible, for the rich to grow in holiness because riches entail added responsibility and burden and can easily lure us away from God. On the other hand, being poor is not always virtuous. A poor man can be greedy and selfish also, and due to poverty, he can also be tempted to do illegal and sinful deeds. What is desirable is just a simple life, free from the dangers of riches and the misery of want. The Book of Proverbs gives us a beautiful prayer: “give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God” (30:8-9). After all, happiness is not a matter of having, but in being – it depends so much on contentment. In Spanish, the word for “happy” is “contento.”
e. Generosity is the concrete expression of love. Love is self-giving. It is said: “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Properly understood, giving is synonymous with loving. But we just have to be careful because many people give, but with ulterior selfish motives. Definitely, that is not love, but exploitation and manipulation. They use their money to gain control over the poor. This is true in the case of politicians, showbiz personalities and unscrupulous businessmen. This is not generosity, but selfishness and exploitation in disguise. True generosity is giving without expecting any reward, and giving until it hurts.
f. But another qualification is added by the Lord. Giving is done, not only for the sake of giving, but as the Lord said, “for my sake and for the sake of the gospel.” The ultimate motivation for giving should always be God. When we give and help, without God in mind, we are just ordinary philanthropists or social workers; we cannot be called Christians. As Christians, we always see Jesus in the face of the poor and the weak. We help them because we love Christ whose image is imprinted in them: “For whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.” When we are able to do this, we do not anymore seek reward or recompense. Knowing we are doing this for the Lord, we are happy and feel rewarded, for indeed, the Lord cannot be outdone in generosity. And the more generous we are, the more God is generous to us also. That is the secret of Divine Economics: the more you give, the more you receive.
Recite or sing the Prayer of St. Francis (“It is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”)
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