I suspect many of us when we first read the excerpt from Ezekiel see someone other than ourselves as the prince of Tyre. Surely we can’t be the ones the Lord is addressing. We aren’t as rich, or as successful, or as haughty, or intelligent, or vain, or arrogant, or blasphemous as (insert name of someone you envy here). Even though THEY act like a god, WE don’t assume we are god-like. Maybe we would like to have the opportunity to try living like a prince or princess (or even a professional athlete or corporate CEO), but we don’t see ourselves in their shoes. And when Jesus cautions the rich man about the difficulties he faces in entering the kingdom of God, well, again we see our poverty and how we fall short of this person’s material bounty and think surely Jesus isn’t talking to us.
But the Lord IS talking to each of us through Ezekiel, and so is Jesus. The prince of Tyre sinned not by being rich, or even in how he became rich, but in how he came to believe in his own entitlement. His richness was in gold and silver. He came to rely on these gifts as if they were his by right. He also identified himself as inseparable from his current status, his richness in material goods. And because he could not separate his identity from these gifts, his feeling of entitlement led to thinking himself god-like. In the Gospel reading the rich man could not give up his possessions; he turned and left because he had so many things he could not see himself without them. He also thought himself god-like because he could not envision himself without his power, his entitlements, his possessions and riches.
What of us who do not have the prince’s or rich man’s level of wealth? How can the Ezekiel story and the Gospel admonition apply to us? When we become too attached to ANY gift that we have in this world we run the same risk. We become unable to separate our identity from the gift, the temporary possession. We sometimes think of “treasure” as only things of wealth, good things. But we can also treasure not so good things when we don’t let go of them, when they come to be like treasure to us. And so our material wealth, our house, our passions for golf or gambling, reading or doing good works, our love for a spouse or a child, our grudges, our envies, our misery, our sicknesses, our sins – all these can become like treasures were for the prince and the rich man. All these can become hindrances to our journey back to God if we become so identified with them that we fail to discern God’s will in providing them to us. Jesus hints at this in the ending part of this dialogue – everyone who has “given up” for His sake will receive eternal life. Not just given up material goods, but given up spouses, children, parents – anything that keeps us from coming back to God as we journey through this life.
And so my prayer today is for the grace to discern what gifts I have and why God has given them to me, and whether I am using them as God calls me to do. I also pray the Suscipe of Ignatius:
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