Immaculate Conception and St. Dominic, Stone

Including Sacred Heart Church, Eccleshall
 

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28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Just a Thought.

From the beginning, God has spoken to humankind: “In times past and in various different ways God…. Spoke through the prophets. But in our own time, the last days, He has spoken to us through His Son.. Whom He made heir to all things and through whom He created the universe.” (Heb 1:1-12) This quote comes from the second reading that we hear on Christmas Day. It is followed by the beautiful prologue of Saint John’s Gospel where he leaves us in no doubt — that the Son of God is Jesus — the Word made Flesh: ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things came to be.’ It goes on and reveals: ‘The Word was made Flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that is His as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.’

The prophet’s words; the meditations of the inspired sages who pondered them; the apostolic preaching and catechesis of those selected by the Lord, have been carefully set down in writing under the movement of the Holy Spirit, Who guarantees the truth and credibility of the Holy Scriptures faithfully transmitted from generation to generation by tradition. The Bible contains the whole of the canonical Scripture. But we must not forget that Scripture is only what supports the living word. This word is living because it comes from the living God. That is why it is ‘effective’ and penetrates everywhere: ‘Between soul and spirit’, often painfully as a ‘Two edged sword’ — a scalpel. It is impossible to evade it, even if one refuses to listen. What God said once — remains eternally.

One cannot silence Him or nullify any of His words. “Yes this Word is living, living in the heart of the Father, in the mouths of those who proclaim it, in the hearts of those who believe and love…. When God’s words are heard, they pierce the believers hearts as the sharp arrows of a warrior. They penetrate and remain in the heart’s innermost depths. The Word is sharper than a two edged sword, more cutting than any force or power, more subtle than all the finesse of human genius, more pointed than every learned thrust of human discourse.” So says Beudoin de Ford (1180).

The living Word designates the living God, for, whom to say — is the same — as to make. ‘By His Word He created the universe.’ (Gen 1:1-31) He ‘Gives to everyone life and breath and everything’ (Acts 17:25) This is why the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes that nothing escapes the notice of the living Word, that it is ‘Able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart,’ that ‘We must render an account’ to God. It is impossible to flee, to avoid hearing God’s Word, to cheat it. Always revealing, it opens to all, their deep truth, what they are in the Lord’s judgement, what they are called to become every day in order to correspond to God’s designs for them. God’s Word is Wisdom itself, and nothing is comparable to Wisdom — it is a gift to be preferred above all other goods, as we hear in today’s first reading. The author of the Book of Wisdom is a believer who asks questions for humanity. His assiduous meditation on Scripture and a long reflection on experience have led him to this conviction — It is Wisdom that guides the world in the right direction corresponding to the Creator’s intention — that is revealed by contemplating the universe — and the way God acts since the beginning — and also the Law. After all, God is the author of Wisdom. Wisdom is found in His Word, He speaks and we who hear receive Wisdom. To receive the gift of Wisdom is the greatest gift. The sage remembers what was related about the great Solomon. God appeared to him in a dream and said: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Without hesitation the King answered: “Give me.. Wisdom.” (1 Kings 3:9-13) For all the riches and power he might have asked for — here is the supreme good. Compared to Wisdom, riches are worth nothing, precious stones do not deserve a glance for: ‘Compared to her, all gold is a pinch of sand, and beside her silver ranks as mud.’ She is even preferable to health, beauty, light; for all these goods are transient and not worth the effort made to secure them, only God’s Word endures for eternity and only the ‘Treasure stored in heaven,’ is of any use. Only Wisdom, which does not perish, deserves that one toil to obtain her. Humans must ardently desire her and prefer her to other goods, Wisdom, as described by the biblical author, is not in human grasp; she is a gift from Almighty God, for which we must pray, and pray ardently. Solomon’s example shows this. Wisdom is an attribute of God. Nothing created could be the object of such desire, such love. This Wisdom is the Spirit of discernment, understanding of heart, surety of judgement that shows with certainty what is good and what is evil. It particularly characterises the leaders of His people to whom God has given His Spirit, and to the prophets — it would be given in overabundance to the Messiah — His only begotten Son — the Word made Flesh, in order that many might benefit from it. Such a person who was offered this benefit was the young man in today’s Gospel. He; ‘ran up to Jesus, knelt before Him and put this question to Him: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”’ We readily identify with this man because all of us carry in our hearts the question he takes the initiative to ask. But Jesus’ response and the explanation given to the disciples later on hold many surprises and goes far beyond what we expected.

The manner in which this man addresses Jesus, before whom he kneels, appears exemplary. However, he is somewhat chided, “Why do you call me good? No-one is good but God alone.” This reaction on Jesus’ part surprises us once again: would it be inappropriate to give him the same title as the one we give God? Jesus is indicating His true Divine Nature. The young man feels the specialness of Jesus, His uniqueness, he senses something of the Divine in Him. Whatever the intention of his questioner, Jesus, with words of wisdom reminds him that in order to know how to act, one must consult the ‘Commandments of the Law’: “You must not kill; you must not commit adultery; you must not steal; you must not bring false witness; you must not defraud; honour your father and mother,” the enumeration is not complete, but it is sufficient to evoke the whole series of precepts. “Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.” This statement is not inspired by pride — but truth. ‘Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him’ for He had seen in the young man the makings of a true disciple — now He is to impart Wisdom and make the man an offer of it: “There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”To follow’ Jesus, is an expression that describes discipleship, and demands that we prefer Him over everything, that we accompany Him without looking back, free from all attachment: ‘But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.’ In his ignorance he had preferred the wealth, the stability, the mortal life which he knew — in preference to the promise he did not know — the gift of Wisdom — the gift of eternal life. Perhaps he thought there was some other way to enter eternal life? Saint John Chrysostom says this: “Whereas others approached Christ in order to test Him, or to tell Him their disease .. This young man, comes near to Jesus to speak of eternal life.. Our young man left, eyes downcast for sadness, a notable sign that he had no come with a bad disposition. But he was too weak; he desired life, but a passion difficult to overcome was holding him back.” Then Jesus ‘Looked round and said to His disciples, “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” The disciples were astounded by these words.’ Is the faithful observance of the Law reduced to nothing — by the possession of wealth? Far from withdrawing his astonishing statement Jesus insists, “My children…. How hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” The disciples ‘Were more astounded than ever… who can be saved then?’ For the third time ‘Jesus gazed at them. “For men” he said “it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.”’ In order to have access to the Kingdom, we must free ourselves from earthly things, from material riches that tie us down. And we all know how difficult — no, near impossible it is to be detached from things we possess, even if it is very little — and that’s the point Jesus is making — it isn’t necessarily wealth and possessions that denies you the Kingdom, it’s what you do with it — how you treat them —and whether you prefer it to everything or everyone else, especially God. God is generous, His followers must be eager distributors of His blessings. Love of God must be shown in love of neighbour. The Good Samaritan had possessions, these he generously and willingly used to aid the injured man, breaking his journey, putting himself at risk and promising ongoing support until he was well again. The generous use of our blessings for those in need is the best investment with eternal consequences.

For those who have left everything to follow Christ and for the sake of the Gospel, will be ‘repaid a hundred times over’ and ‘Eternal life in the age to come’ is assured to those who act in this manner. As with the young man in today’s Gospel, when the time for choices is at hand, we must weigh things on the scales of eternity revealed by Christ and the Gospels. Wisdom will guide our daily choices and preferences. Worldly riches they can be a salvific blessing when shared wisely. Our guarantee is God’s Word: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, or mind conceived, the good things that God has prepared for those who love him.”

 

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