29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Purity of Ambition
Our gospel last week was about the rich young ruler who wanted some reward for himself for obeying the Law. Jesus told him, “If you wish to be complete, sell all your possessions and give to the poor.” Scripture says that his face fell, and he grieved because he had to give up all the possessions that he valued in his heart.
I believe in the “prosperity gospel” because the Bible says that godliness is great gain if we understand what it really means. There is this teaching that says that we will reap exactly what we plant. If we tithe a certain amount, we will get a hundred fold amount of it in return. I guarantee that in whatever we give, what we will receive is indeed one hundred times more than what we gave, but not in earthly understanding. In the kingdom of God, if we plant something using earthly things, we will reap something spiritual. The fulfillment that we get in giving cannot be equated with the monetary value or possessions.
As children of God, we are different, we are peculiar, and we have higher standards in the Kingdom. In the world, the idea of greatness is possession, position, power, and prestige. In the gospel, James and John wanted position and power by sitting at the right and left hand of Jesus. In the kingdom of God, we don’t get ahead of others. We give preference to one another in honor. Greatness is by service, not by status. If we think according to the world’s standard, we will not see the kingdom of God; we will not inherit it and we will not be happy in it. We have to be born again just like what Jesus said, “Unless you are born again…” (that is, the renewing of our minds, seeing things in the way the Kingdom sees it) “then, we will not enter the kingdom of God.”
The rich young ruler was disappointed because he could not see that what God has in store for him is much, much bigger and better than what he had. What God is asking from us is much better to what we have in our hands, but sometimes there is the deceitfulness of riches which blinds us. We need to trust God and renew our minds because He has indeed much better for us. We will get something from God that money cannot buy or that possessions cannot equal. The fulfillment is inexplicable and there is the joy of being like God and being like Jesus.
I believe that we will reap what we sow, which is a heavenly principle, but we must understand that if we have the ability to give, then, this means that we already have been blessed. We have been blessed because of these facts: first, our needs have been met. When God gives, He gives bread for eating and seed for sowing. The fact that we have seed for sowing means that we already have food. Second, the fulfillment that we see in the face of someone whose need we met is more than a reward. The smile or the tears of joy is a great fulfillment, which is one hundred times better than the value of what we gave them.
We need to get the heart of God, which is much, more valuable and which could give much happiness than what we hold on to. Jesus wants us to understand that serving itself is the reward. St. John Chrysostom was a good preacher. His name Chrysostom meant ‘golden tongue’ and he had a reflection on the story of the Good Samarian. John Chrysostom said that the Good Samaritan was Jesus seeing in the wounded Israelite a treasure, an opportunity to be blessed. We don’t have to have an accounting of what the others neglected to do. All we need to do is to grab the opportunity. If we find a one hundred dollar bill lying on the ground, do we ask why somebody did not pick it up or cleaned it up? No, we would rush to grab it before somebody else sees it because we will see it something of value. This is how our attitude should be to those who are needy because they are a treasure.
St. John continues, “Think the same way about your fallen brothers; consider that tending his wounds is like finding treasure. If you pour the word of instruction on his wounds like oil, if you bind them up with your mildness, and cure them with your patience, your brother has made you a richer man than any treasure could. No fasting, sleeping on the ground, no watching, no praying all night, or anything else can do as much for you as saving our brother can accomplish.” Even if we undergo an intense fasting, it cannot accomplish what it is to help others who are in need. We are to serve each other; we are to give preference to one another in honor. It is not for the reward because the service itself is the reward. Let us not think that if we would be servants here on earth, when we reach heaven, then we could be masters. When the kingdom of God comes, the principle would still be the same. The change will be in us because we will be more like Christ growing spiritually in our lives. If we are servants here on earth, more so we will be in the heavens. The reward is in the giving. We need to have the feeling that Jesus has when He gives of Himself to us. Sitted on the throne, He leaves it to help the sinners. The letter to the Hebrew says that Christ found joy in doing this because this is the heart of God.
If we have a servant attitude now, the more we will have when we reach the fullness of the Kingdom. In the Beatitudes, there was no promise of material things as a reward. Being blessed was a spiritual thing where we will have peace, joy, and be comforted. Our tears will be wiped away. God is ever blessing and this is why He is ever blessed. Blessed not because He is the Owner of all things or because He is Lord of all, but because He finds inexplicable joy in serving others and being a bless-or, not a bless-ee.
Jesus said, “The Son of man came to serve, not to be served, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The nature of God is love, and love is ascribing worth to others at cost and at our expense. Jesus will never change. He came to serve before and continues to have a heart of a servant – giving and loving. In the kingdom here and in the coming kingdom, the culture of serving remains the same.
In John 10:32, it says that Jesus and His disciples were journeying towards Jerusalem, and Jesus was ahead of them. See Jerusalem as the heart of Jesus, giving of His life to others. We are all in a journey following Jesus and He is ahead leading us, wanting us to grasp the meaning of giving one’s life for the sake of others. The name of the game in the kingdom of God is to out-serve others, to out-give others and to out-love others forever. If we think this is “kill-joy”, then we are missing the point. We are not seeing the kingdom of God.
Scriptures said that a Scribe asked Jesus, “What is the foremost commandment?” Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself.” The Scribe said, “Teacher, you are right.” Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This is the beginning. Jesus told James and John, ‘You do not know what you are asking for.” The more reward oriented we are, the farther we are from seeing the kingdom of God and reaching it. The more reward oriented we are, which is selfishness, the farther we are from the kingdom, which is selfless-ness. Greed, the attitude of getting ahead does not have a place in the kingdom of God. If we are reward oriented, the more we are pushing away the true reward.
Quoting from a book about the motivation for charity, it says that it is what makes the needy happy, not what makes us happy. If our motivation is what makes the needy happy, then, that makes us the happiest. It would fulfill us the most.
When I was in college, I would always wait for a bus that is not full because I wanted to make sure that I could get a seat. During that time, there was not a lot of transportation, so I would ride a baby bus that plied my route. It was low-ceiling, and when you need to stand, it can cause one to have a stiffed-neck. When the bus gets full, I would give my seat to an elderly, the weak, and sometimes, with a wrong motive, to the women, in exchange for their number. I pointed this out because in the kingdom of God, if there would be someone who will be rewarded a seat at the left and right of Jesus, he will be able to sit there because his heart is the same as Jesus. His character is the same as Jesus of being a giver and he would readily offer and give up his seat because greed has no place in the kingdom of God. I imagine, too, that Jesus’ throne itself would be empty because He is looking for someone that He likes to bless, to give of Himself or just mingle with His brothers and sisters. This is the heart of Jesus.
Let us renew our minds. Let our motivation for helping and reaching out to others not be so that we will get something in return. What should motivate us is our heart like Jesus, His divine nature in us. Then, our reward would really, really be great. Eye has not seen nor eye heard what God has prepared for those who love Him. We want to be like Jesus. This is the reason for our existence in this kingdom and the future kingdom for this is the way it will always be in the kingdom of God.