Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

We live in the world, and that world tries to tell us that happiness can be purchased, that meaning can be bought, and that all that matters is the here and now. The creed of the world is “Take care of number one.” Many of the people we associate with at work, school or in the neighborhood buy into the lie of the world. This is the lie of materialism. “The more you have, the happier you will be,” the false gods of materialism claim. Then reality kicks in. People can have everything, but are not happy. Life is beautiful, when it is lived with God. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ.  That is the Gospel. St. Paul tells the Colossians and us that we are to seek what is above, not what is of the earth. He reminds us that our baptism was a death with Christ to the material world and a rising with Him to the Life of the Spirit.

We belong to Jesus Christ. He is ours, and we are His. Our patron, San Francesco di Paola, wrote: “A Christian is not his own Master. His time is God’s.” Each of us has a crucial role to play in God’s plan for mankind. We are loved, and we are called to love. The best part of all this is that nothing can take this love from us.  We can only cloud it over ourselves, or even surrender it when we become concerned with what St. Paul calls the earthly practices of immorality.

With Jesus Christ there are marvelous contradictions.  St. John of the Cross wrote about these paradoxes in the Ascent to God.  He says, among other paradoxes, “To come to possess all, desire the possession of nothing.  To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing.  To come to the knowledge you have not, go by a way in which you know not.” Jesus Christ provides all the answers in life, but we have to empty ourselves of our attachment to the gods of materialism to even know what questions we need to ask. My favorite quote from St. John of the Cross describes the fundamental motivation of the committed Catholic: “I went without discerning to that to which my heart was yearning.”

People who live only for the here and now, live for nothing.  Qoheleth called it vanity in the first reading.  Jesus told a parable about a rich fool whose life ended before he could even briefly enjoy the rewards of his labor.  St. Paul makes it clear in the second reading that our lives are hidden with Christ in God.  That is where we find our happiness.

How does the Catholic integrate the Christ reality with the necessities of life: food, shelter, love for another, the desire to have and raise children, etc.? Everything has got to be focused on Christ.  Every action must have the serving of Christ as its end. A Christian career person is successful only to the extent that he or she is able to grow closer to Christ throughout his or her working days. A marriage is successful only to the extent that each spouse can be Christ for the other. Parenting is successful only when parents are determined to populate the world with children who are even better Christians than they are. A priest is only successful to the extent that He grows closer to Christ by serving his people.  And so on, and so forth.

Life for us is wonderful.  We are called by Jesus Christ to follow Him.  Every step we take to draw closer to Him leads us to desire Him more. We cannot have enough of Him.  We cannot have enough of His joy. We live among many people who have reduced their joy to the momentary pleasures of life.  Yet, we don’t belong with them.  We belong with Jesus Christ.  We have been given the gift of lasting joy.

But we have not been given this gift for ourselves. All Christians are called to evangelization, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.  We are called to do this in numerous ways: invite people to Mass, to the RCIA, bring Christ’s love to the poor, the hurting, the grieving. These and many other practices and works of charity are good and necessary for the Evangelist, but the easiest way to be evangelists is to be who we are: People of Joy.  Joy is attractive; it attracts other people.

Today we pray that we might be people rich in the treasures of God.  We pray that we might be the salt of the earth; the light of the world, that Jesus called us to be. We pray that we might be People of Everlasting Joy

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris