26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Jam 5:1-6; Mk:9 38:43, 45, 46-48
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Homily Notes for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Jam 5:1-6; Mk:9 38:43, 45, 46-48
· A good friend once told me that while he thought I offered insightful homilies, he honestly could not remember a single one I had given! I did not take offense at his honest confession as I too can remember just a handful of homilies that I have given or have heard delivered!
· One in particular that comes to mind often was given by a priest who spend most of his life in the roughest parts of a major Canadian city. He very boldly declared in a homily that the Church was essentially only for the poor and that the rich had no place within it. This led me to beg the question that if the rich are excluded from the Church here on earth, than does this mean their riches will damn them in the life to come?
· This homily struck me hard personally as it made me reflect on my own upbringing in a home that was well to do. We were not among the ultra-rich, but as I grew up I realized our home was bigger than most of my friends, that the food I ate was of better quality, the designer clothes I wore more expensive and that while my parents certainly did not give me everything I wanted when asked for, that through chores at home or working at my dad’s medical clinic or waiting for birthday and Christmas, I would most likely get those things I so desired.
· Did this make us among the rich to whom the Kingdom of Heaven was barred entry? St James today holds back no punches in calling the rich to weep and wail for the miseries that are to come, that their riches will rot, their fine clothes become the feast of moths and the splendour of their gold and silver reduced to rusty waste. So too Jesus spoke of how one could not serve both God and wealth and that the rich man would find it very difficult to inherit eternal life, just as a camel laden with a large load of supplies could rarely fit through the eye of the needle, that is, the entrance of a city gate of the ancient world.
· Yet we know that those among the rich were disciples of Christ and now considered saints of our Church. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were two such men, who spent a small fortune to assure Christ received a proper burial and will forever be honoured for using their wealth to serve the Son of God when too many others had abandoned him and forsaken the sacred duty of placing his body in the tomb.
· So there at least a few rich people in heaven, which is good news, and their presence there asks us to ponder how than those of great means will enter the Kingdom of Heaven when the scriptures warn how difficult it will be for them to do so?
· Ultimately, it is not wealth in and of itself that can condemn someone. It is when wealth becomes an idol, which in its essence is a false god, something that has become more important and central to someone’s life than love of God and neighbour.
· Idols have plagued humanity from the Fall in Eden and seduced people up to this very day to place your devotion and trust in idols’ passing pleasures and not the treasures laid up in heaven that St. James says will be given in the last days!
· Our Lord today also noted that idols are what leads us to sins, and employing a teaching technique of his day, uses hyperbole to show how one must battle against these sins that come from idols: to Symbolically cut off what causes the hand to sin through greed or lust, to remove the feet that causes one to sin through indifference or sloth, and to pull out one’s eye that causes one to sin through envy, anger or pride.
· As we reflect on our Christian lives, it maybe that wealth or other idols do not hold any sway over us, if so, praise be Jesus Christ! But if we have a sense that wealth or other idols do have some presence in our hearts, let us ask the Lord for the grace and wisdom of how to begin removing their harmful effects for us.
· Specifically, the Church, echoing the teachings of Jesus and passed on through scriptural writers like St James, has called the Christian people to charity as an all-important means to battle against the idol of wealth.
· Not only does charitable giving assure that noble causes receive the financial support they need, for example this beautiful new church could not possibly continue to operate were it not for the ongoing generosity of our parishioners and pilgrims to the parish, but charitable giving also makes the heart and soul to be less attached and enamoured by material things and find much greater satisfaction in being charitable, even when it comes a personal cost to our own wealth or when we prefer to use our treasure for our own wants and needs.
· Store up treasure for the last days St. James teaches! What he is referring to is how the Lord will reward those in the world to come with the joys of heaven for having been charitable. While his call today was notably to the wealthy of the world as a means for them to use well the treasures the Lord had willed for them to possess, but for each of us, whether we consider ourselves rich or not, to assure our entrance into the kingdom of the Father is not inhibited by this or any other idol in this life.
· May we call upon Our Holy Mother today to assist us to battling idols. She once sang how God has filled the hunger with good things and the rich he has sent away empty. As a loving mother, she will continually show us the way to put aside whatever separates us from God and fill us with the delights of being like her, a humble servant of the Lord.