16th Sunday in Ordinary Time:"Walking in Impassioned Purpose"
One thing that I feel a little bit squeamish about liturgy is that our exuberance had been stifled. We only do the rubrics as indicated or required in the Mass. The Holy Spirit indwells in us, and there is nothing wrong in the liturgy when it is the Holy Spirit that prods us. We do things during the Mass for order, but we also need to be led by the Spirit in our worship.
It is a great time for our Church. Twenty years ago, Aug 3, 1997 was the last Mass in Magallanes Theater. August 5, 1997 is the time that the siege came and many members of our Church were waiting for the fate of some who were still inside the Theater. I say this because we should see how blessed we are in this facility that God has provided and we must never ever forget the blessings of God in our lives. I constantly harp on this and remind us that when we are in the Mass, I would like us to have the understanding of the experience of the love of God that is more than just a ceremony or a going through the rituals of gestures and vestments.
During the 90’s, we had seven Masses, and I was there for these seven Masses. I was thinking then how I will survive them. I would come in when the sun was not yet up, and I would leave when the sun is already down. One thing that kept me going, one thing that I would not like the enemy to steal from me, from us, is that the Sunday experience that we have is not a ceremony but the life of God being shared with His people. It is the life and the power of God that continues to flow in each of us, thus, we must not allow ourselves to be robbed of it because it is the glory of God that is going to come in.
The question is: what really matters in our lives? What catches our attention and our priority? Ordinary Time is about our Christian life. We are on the 16th Sunday – halfway through the year. How much of God have we allowed to enter into our lives? Our journey is a journey of faith. It is a day to day dramatic journey of God’s love expressed in moments of trials, testing problems, tribulations and difficulties but which is also expressed in victory, in joy, in exultation, in wonder, and in awe. This is the love of God. It is a daily encounter with God’s favor – that Divine, amazing grace that gives us the ability to overwhelmingly conquer. Ordinary Time is about victory – our victory in Christ.
In Psalm 34, is says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him from them all.” If we think being a Christian insulates us from the world, then we have not understood the Scriptures. St. Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Christian life has its trials and tests to prove the power of God that is within us that can overcome these situations.
In the physical, real world we live in today, we are consumed by, impassioned by the drive for material possessions, particularly money. It is something that should have been helpful to us but has enslaved us instead. In the end, it leaves us exhausted and empty. Material possession does not fill the void within us that we thought would be filled when we have something. Ecclesiastes 1:12-14(NLT) “I, the Philosopher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I determined that I would examine and study all the things that are done in this world. God has laid a miserable fate upon us. 14 I have seen everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind. 15 You can't straighten out what is crooked; you can't count things that aren't there.”
In the world we live in, we want to have something now! This is why people use their credit cards or go through an installment plan to get something for themselves. We want to get the most of something with the least amount of effort. We are captivated by the consumerism and the urge to have more, to buy more, and to shop for more.
The Business World dated October 6, 2018 has for its headlines “It’s a Mall World” that says that despite of the recession in the world, the Philippine mall industry had stood out. Statistics shows that for the 3 leading malls operators in the country as of 2018, SM has 67 malls with 6 more to be built before the year ends. Ayala Malls had 57 malls with 6 more malls to be built and Robinsons has 47 with 4 more to be built. In the issue of Nikkei Asian World last March 27. 2018, the headline said, “Shopping malls boom as Filipinos shrug off inflation” This is the society we are in.
Malls or shopping are not evil in themselves. Like money, these are neutral objects which do have wonderful benefits in this modern age that we live in. But like anything in this earthly life we have, we have to guard the evil that can come out of things that are seemingly harmless. As Christians, we need to be vigilant, that we may not be led to evil. This is why, out of concern, Jesus gives His caution to the people to be aware of every form of greed.
Jesus said in Luke 12:15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Jesus Himself gives us the warning: beware, watch out for, and be on your guard against any form of greed. There is a trap in the lives of many people which we are not aware. The devil comes like an angel of light. Temptations come in a very subtle way, so Jesus gives us this warning. Greed, which finds its way into a man’s heart through material things and money, has a bad effect upon us. It is like a wild beast that possesses a man to make him want, hunger, inordinately desire for more. “Enough” is not in its vocabulary. Greed is forever discontented; it is thirsting for more.
Jesus gives this warning to us and the Scriptures show in many other places this same admonition. Psalm 62:10b - “And if your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.” Psalm 49:6- “They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches.” Mark 10:25- “In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Luke 12:14 says that our life is not defined by our possessions. For some reason, we are made to believe that the more we have, the better we are, and the more secure we become. Even in the midst of poverty, greed is like a snake that traps us. Our ambition is to make us lifted up but many times, we are ruined by this.
Our life is not defined by our possessions; our life is defined by God. He is the One who gives meaning to life. Success and prosperity are not the goals of Christian life. Neither is an easy life the goal. The goal is for Christ to be formed in us.
Colossians 3:1-11 in NLT says, “ Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. 5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”
Do not see the Mass as something that we do repetitively. Something is being formed in us as we continuously spiral up the life of Christianity. We continue to spiral in the life of Christianity until we are formed in Christ's lives.
In Luke 12:16-20, we are told of a story of “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ The man was not rich, but very rich. Man thinks being rich is what will make him. Human success is temporal. It is only good for a specific span of time. God is eternal, and He lasts forever.
It is not wrong or evil to desire to prosper, to succeed and to become rich. It is not wrong to have wealth. It becomes wrong when we reverse it – when wealth has taken hold of us. It becomes wrong when it controls us and when the acquisition of riches becomes our aspiration for life and we become focused on selfish desires. In this parable, we can count the pronouns in the first person that was used repeatedly: six for “I” and five for “my”. There was none for “they” or “he”.
The desire, thirst and hunger for possessions are very natural human responses. These are God-given desires. It becomes wrong when we allow it to control us rather than we controlling it. It becomes wrong when we respond by satisfying it our way instead of God’s way. We begin to lose the meaning of life and the joy of our living. Many people lose the joy of lack because of material possessions. The Lord desires us to enjoy the life He gave us. He provides our needs so that we might have what is necessary to enjoy life. Once this natural, God-given pattern is altered and the focus is to have more and more, success becomes destructive for us.
Material things will never satisfy us because they were never designed to do so. They can be compared to drinking salt water to quench thirst. The more we drink, the more we become thirsty. They can never fill the void that Christ fills. We drink some more but never become satisfied until it comes to the point when our body and health will be affected and we might eventually die.
John 4:13-14, “13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” Luke 12:21, Jesus makes a statement, “21This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” There are two things that we can do in life: store up things for ourselves or we can be rich for God. What will we choose? How can we become rich toward God?
Revelation 3:17-18(NLT) happens in a place called Laodicea, one of the seven churches. Jesus appears to them and said, “17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.” What is gold, white garments, and ointment? To be rich toward God is to buy gold purified by fire, white garments to clothe our nakedness and ointment for us to see.
Here is a church, Laodicea, nestled in one of the most opulent and richest cities in the Roman empire. Their members were the high flying members of society. The city boasted on three main industries that gave the citizens a very prosperous life - the black wool, the medical university (with its specialization in a special eye salve), and the banking/finance where merchants exchanged large amounts of currency. They had gold, garments and ointment for the things that they need, but the Lord says to them, “You do not know that you are poor.” What a rebuke but a rebuke that is impassioned with love, a rebuke impassioned for the purpose of transformation to become what they were created to be. This is why it was followed by a loving advice and counsel in Revelation 3:20 New Living Translation (NLT), “20 Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends."
Jesus comes to us every Sunday to guard us from greed, to guard us against the wiles and the poison of the wealth of the world. He comes to us in the Word and Sacrament each Sunday. Let us not despise or take for granted the time the church gathers on Sunday. It is a time of intimate fellowship with our living Lord. It is a time when we will draw from Him the strength we need to face our week. Jesus stands here each Sunday waiting, hoping, that we would come. He stands here with an open invitation of a royal feast that He has prepared with His own body and blood. He has given us the honor to be present here every Sunday. With this life giving source, we will have the strength that we need for the rest of the week to face whatever we are facing in life. He calls us forth to be His people, and so, let us not put down this invitation.