September 30, 2018 —Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sometimes stewardship messages are sprinkled subtly within the Sunday readings; other times they hit us like a Mack truck. This week’s readings contain a bit of both.
The “Mack truck” message is contained in the second reading, once again from the letter of St. James. He gives a chilling description of the outcome of a life based on materialism and pleasure-seeking. “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire.” St. James is not condemning people for having wealth. His harsh words are for those who acquire wealth and luxuries as if these things are the ultimate purpose in life. He makes it vividly clear what will happen to the material possessions and the owners of these possessions at the end of their lives.
When we hold onto possessions too tightly, they come to possess us. The “stuff” can easily become the focus of our energy and attention. Attachment to material things slowly and steadily corrupts.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is anything but subtle about the need to detach from everything that keeps us from loving Him. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off… If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off… And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”
The urgency of our need to detach from all that is not God, is clear. The spiritual discipline of tithing can help us with this. Tithing leads us to let go of unhealthy attachment to material things and leads us to attach instead to God, relying on Him as our true source of security. We come to understand that all that we have is a gift from our loving Father and we use it to bless others and glorify HIm. What wonderful freedom there is in living this way! Amazingly, we actually enjoy material gifts, and all other gifts, moreas a result because we realize where they really came from are using them as God intended.
Also, in today’s Gospel Jesus warns, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck.” Whether we are aware of it or not, we are always serving as a witness of our Catholic faith and an example of Catholic living in modern society. We have a serious obligation to examine our lives to see if the example we give in the use our gifts leads others to Christ… or away from Him.
Lastly, in the Gospel, the disciples of Jesus complain that “outsiders” are preaching the Good News and Jesus essentially responds, “Good for them!” Again we must examine our lives. Do we in this parish have an attitude of openness to others? Do we welcome all, even those who are not the “insiders” here, to join us in sharing the Good News of the Gospel?
What powerful challenges we have before us this week. Let’s pray for each other as we set out to embrace them.