October 9, 2011 — Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
God, of course, owns the whole universe. After all, it was his idea, and he created it, and he continues his creative activity. It is out of his generosity and overflowing love that he created us, continues our existence, and even redeems us. And yet we tend to live lives of distrust, worry, and even fear.
Part of this, no doubt, comes from the simple fact that we are creatures. The world in which we dwell seems so very vast, and we seem to be such tiny specks. And not just in the natural universe. The human society in which we live often seems so large and impersonal, so that we hardly matter, whether in the nation, or one of our large cities, or even in the corporations for which many of us work.
But part comes from the fact that we have a defect, the result of original sin. The central result of original sin is that we want to make ourselves the center of the universe. We view the world and even other people only as they relate to us. Our personal satisfaction or safety or convenience is the standard by which we judge events and other people. Do they give us happiness?
St. Paul, in the Second Reading from Philippians, provides another standard for living. He writes that he can live victoriously whether in material abundance or during periods of material poverty. In fact, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” It’s not by Paul’s own power. It’s by the power of God.
St. Paul even dares to go so far as to write, “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” He is affirming his trust that everything he needs can and will provided by God, who does own the whole universe and has shown his love by sending his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We may be tempted to disregard what Paul says, assuming that he didn’t face the problems we have. But we need to remember that he wrote the Letter to the Philippians from prison, where he had been thrust because of his witness to Christ. And, as he wrote, he had grown to trust God both when he had abundance and when he was hungry. St. Paul had learned to adjust his expectations – Romans prisons were no fun, after all – and to depend on the Lord for his survival. This is a difficult lesson for us to learn, especially in our time of economic turmoil and when we have responsibility for others.
If we change our perspective, so that God becomes the center of our lives, instead of ourselves, we too will find that our view of our sphere in the world changes. The great success of the advertising industry has been to persuade us that every want we experience is a need. Instead we’ll come to view our time, our talent, and our treasure as gifts from God not for our own benefit alone but to be used for his glory by returning a portion for the use of the Church and in service to others.
In so doing we’ll find an abundance we never dreamed of. The prophet Isaiah presented a vision of a feast with rich food and choice wines, prefiguring the Messianic banquet, of which the Eucharist is a foretaste. But as Jesus warned in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, many who are invited refuse to accept. They have made themselves so much the center of their lives that they refuse the only invitation that really matters.
That’s the ultimate choice each of us has to make. Do I consider myself the center of my universe, or is God the center, so my purpose is to follow his will. If I choose the glory of God as my goal, I’ll grow in trust of him, and find that he does indeed “fully supply” everything I really need.