This Sunday is the twenty-eighth Sunday in ordinary time. The readings remind us that we do not possess anything in our lives that we refuse to surrender to the Lord. In reality, these things often possess us, and we become prisoners of our possessions. What we have really done is to give top priority to material things. In doing so, we violate the First Great Commandment, which demands that we give absolute and unconditional priority to God.
The first reading is taken from the Book of Wisdom. The Jewish community was in danger of losing their identity because of the constant temptation to follow Greek philosophy and Greek morality rather than their Faith traditions. A learned and faithful Jew assessed the situation of his fellow Jews in Alexandria and tried to bolster their faith with a book, now called Wisdom, which offered them a virtuous way of life. By “wisdom” the author meant not just worldly wisdom but a spiritual wisdom that included adherence to older Jewish traditions. The reading teaches us that one should prefer wisdom to every other good thing. It quotes from King Solomon’s personal valuation of wisdom: “I preferred her [wisdom] to scepter and throne and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.” True wisdom comes from God; it is the ability to see things as God sees them and to understand things as God understands them. Only Divine wisdom can teach us how to live wisely and successfully in life, making wise choices. We are also invited to see Jesus as Wisdom Incarnate and to give Him priority over everything else in life.
The Letter to the Hebrews was written to bolster the Faith of Jewish converts to Christianity. The reading tries to show the Hebrews the ways in which the new religion of Christianity is better than their old faith. St. Paul tells them, “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” The living and effective word of God has the power to penetrate into our body and soul like a double-edged sword. We should allow the Word of God in all its vital power and effectiveness to challenge us and our priorities and goals in life. Like a double-edged sword, the Word has the dual capacity of revealing God to the believer and revealing the believer to Him.
The Gospel is divided into three sections: a narrative of Jesus’ encounter with a rich man, Jesus’ teachings about wealth as a possible obstacle to following Him, and Jesus’ promise of reward for those who share their material possessions with the needy. Jesus reminded the rich man of the commandments that deal with relationships with other people and challenged him to sell what he had and to give the money to the poor. Jesus shocked his disciples with this challenge to the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity were signs of God’s blessings. Instead, He declared that true religion consisted in one’s sharing of His blessings with others rather than hoarding them, which is a sin.
Jesus was so generous that He gave us everything, including his very Self. Hence, there should be a desire to give in the heart of every Christian. God does not ask us to give up our riches, but He does ask us to acknowledge that every blessing is a gift from God and we must use them wisely in His service. We must manage our possessions wisely, so that they do not gain control over our hearts. God gives us time, talents and riches that we may use them in the service of others. These are opportunities to serve God and His Church.
Next Sunday is celebrated as World Mission Sunday. On this day, besides praying for missions and missionaries we also make financial contributions to the work of evangelization of the Church around the world. The money collected on Mission Sunday is sent to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome to help mission dioceses around the world support pastoral and evangelizing programs, catechists and catechetical work, the building of churches and chapels, the work of religious communities in health care and education and other needs identified by the Church. This annual celebration gives us an opportunity to reflect upon our mission in preaching the gospel and also upon our responsibility for the missionary work of the Church. I thank our parish community for sharing your blessings with our less fortunate brothers and sisters around the world through our dedicated missionaries.