Today in the United States the Scriptural Readings are for this Thursday in Ordinary Time. Other parts of the world commemorate the Feast of Corpus Christi, which was traditionally the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. We Americans will celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ a few days later, on this coming Sunday.
Maybe we wait because in spite of some recent setbacks, for those of us in the United States, our economy is still enormously prosperous, and perhaps we have special need of today’s stern admonitions against putting our trust in wealth. By ironic timing, I’m reading, “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries,” while about 31,000 Berkshire Hathaway stockholders are in Omaha for their annual meeting. They hear from their amazingly prosperous corporation’s leaders, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger; they see famous fellow stockholders like Bill Gates, and they enjoy touring the displays at the convention center, shopping with stockholder discounts at some of our best retail stores, and contributing to Omaha’s apparently prosperous hotel and restaurants’ profits. I’m not thinking that these thousand of visitors should instead “weep and wail.” It’s quite possible that none of them has cheated any harvesters, much less “murdered the righteous one.” In fact I’m sure some of them have been generous to Creighton University.
However the warnings in the epistle and the psalm about the obvious temporality of material wealth and the condemnation of the Unjust Rich call each of us to examine our lives. We know that clothes may be “moth-eaten” and metals may corrode, but houses, cars, clothes, furniture, wide-screen TV sets and coin collections may not be the problem. The Gospel has startling images about divesting oneself of “things” that may prevent living in Christ. Yet although I may not need to cut off a hand, foot, or eye, I may need to think about giving up some good thing in order to “belong to Christ.” It may be leisure and comfort, given up to pursue a degree program, or a hobby that has become an addiction, given up to restore relationships, or indeed some money – perhaps Berkshire Hathaway earnings! – given up to do Jesus’ work of curing the sick and caring for the needy.
Thus this Gospel indicates a bargain that any modern capitalist can understand: No sacrifice is too great if it leads to salvation. Why wouldn’t you invest even a painful amount for the really big return of eternal life? It could be simply a good business deal! And as Fr. Bert Thelen, S.J. wrote recently, eternal life is not some, we hope, distant future – “eternal life is now!” Spend it in Christ!
The Jesuits know about this, since each chooses to divest himself of an independent career and family life because of his personal love of Jesus Christ. They wish to be “salted with fire” – a phrase I did not understand until I suddenly remembered a prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit . . . enkindle in us the Fire of Thy Love.” Yes, I want to be “salted” (purified and preserved) with the Fire of God’s Love!
Another prayer comes to mind as I ponder today’s stern but hopeful readings, the “Suscipe” (“Receive”) prayer of St. Ignatius. In one English translation it says “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have . . .you have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it . . . do with it what you will.” And now I hear it in a hymn: “Give me only your love and your grace, that’s enough for me” Yes, today I pray: Your Love and your Grace -- that’s wealth enough for me!
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