Summary: Suppose you knew that you would face your God sometime tonight. What would you spend your day doing? We would not waste one second of that precious time.
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Course 2018
Twenty four hours to Live
Let me invite you all to do what we in science call a “thought experiment” for a while. Suppose, through a vision or a medical diagnosis you attained a 99% certainty that you will not wake up tomorrow morning. Suppose you knew that you would face your God sometime tonight. What would you spend your day doing? Would you look for a new job? Amass more wealth? Watch yet another dissipating movie? I suspect you and I would not use our little time left that way. Many of us would examine our consciences and hope to find a priest to confess our sins and be absolved. We might make certain to spend intimate time with spouse and family. Or to be reconciled with someone we’ve fallen out with. But what we all would do is focus our ten or fifteen or twenty-four hours doing what is most important. We would not waste one second of that precious time.
We pray “teach us to number our days aright, that we may have wisdom of heart.” The wisdom we need most of all does not come with college credit. We pay the tuition not with cash or credit cards but with the pain of living our daily life, suffering with our friends and relatives and doing what we can to help their own pain. That wisdom is the same as the living and active Word of God, who is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s only when our mind and heart are grafted onto the mind and heart of the Lord that we are truly wise. We were made in the image and likeness of God. In our first parents we gave up that supernatural reality, but God Himself lovingly took on our image and our nature. He lived a truly human life and gave that life up on the cross so that we might die with Him in baptism and begin to live a divine life. It’s a life of repentance, of self-giving in service to God and our neighbor.
When I was young, and that was a long time ago, we’d hear this Gospel passage about the rich young man and immediately hear a homily about how it’s a call to the priesthood or to consecrated life. In fact, as a young adult I spent four years in discernment and formation with the Brothers of Mary, four years with Jesus and Mary that I neither forget nor regret. But many have a wrong idea about God’s intention for us when we discover no vocation to priestly ministry nor consecrated religious community. We have not as they say “dodged a bullet” and can do whatever we want. There is really only one vocation in life, a calling to inherit eternal life, so that our last moment in this life is the commitment of our eternity into the hands of the Blessed Trinity. It is the call of Our Lord that we just heard in the Gospel.
This Gospel is good news for everyone, not just the number of Christians who are Catholic, or the even smaller number who are called by God to priestly or consecrated ministry. When Jesus looked on this fellow, who was so full of his own righteousness yet so eager to inherit God’s kingdom, St. Mark says “Jesus loved him.” Now Jesus loves us all. He loves us all enough to give up His precious life for us even when we are jerks. So the Good News is not just for some of us. It’s for all of us. We can only be happy when we hear this word and act on it. The rich young man turned away because his possessions were his god. He loved his stuff more than the One Who gave it to him.
It is remarkable to read the original word for the young man’s emotional response. Here we see in English words like “he was sad” or “sorrowful.” But the original word is the same one the ancients would have used for the sky when we’re about to get hit by a violent storm. He acted as if the material goods he owned instead owned him. He chose a life under the storm cloud when he separated himself from Christ.
So the call of Christ to this man is Our Lord’s call to every man and every woman of every age. He wants us to join His family, the Church, and to place our families and everything we own, everything He has entrusted to us, at the service of the Kingdom. That is the price of membership in God’s family. The early Christians did this, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles. They may have gone a little too far, placing everything in common, so that the Jerusalem church was for many years not just poor, but impoverished and needing help from the churches St. Paul founded. But in practice, we should have enough for food, shelter, medical care and adequate clothing, put something aside for our old age, and dedicate everything else to love of God and love of neighbor.