Homily for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (12 & 13/2/22)

posted 14 Feb 2022, 01:24 by Parish Office

Today’s Gospel can be a bit confusing: “How happy are you who are poor … Happy you who are hungry … Happy you who weep now … But alas for you who are rich … Alas for you who have your fill now … Alas for you who laugh.” As with so many things Christ teaches, we need to go deeper. What kind of poverty, and what kind of wealth, is He talking about? Do we need to go home and get rid of everything, so that we are poor, hungry, and in sorrow? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear the answer is no.

As we noticed last week, the first reading relates to the Gospel, and this is where the key lies: “A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord. … A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.” Riches can lead to us turning away from God, relying just on ourselves. And, as well as this danger, there is another that is one of the seven deadly sins, and can affect us, whether we are rich or poor: the sin of avarice, where we just want to acquire more and more material things, and sometimes, we don’t even care how we get them, whether the means are legitimate, or illegitimate.

The seven deadly sins are so-called because they lead people away from God. If we become dependent on riches, and they become our reason for living, then something has gone wrong. It’s a bit like the Israelites who, whilst Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, they got all their gold together and made a golden calf, and stupidly, worshipped it. But are we any better today? How many people idolise possessions, having the latest this, that or the other? And those things then lead people to forget about God, and not have the time for prayer. We live in a society where we expect to have what we want at the push of a button. And if you can’t afford it, you can always buy it on credit – buy now, pay later. Whilst with prayer, God might not give you exactly what you want: He is in control. When we are used to having things our way, it can be difficult to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done”. We are used to thinking, “my kingdom come, my will be done”. It’s an inversion of attitude.

So is it bad to own riches? Are we morally obliged to get rid of them all straight away? Once again, no. There are various people in the Bible who were rich, but made good use of their riches and stayed close to God. Abraham had an abundance of money, a large family, flocks and land. Isaac, Moses, David and Job were similar.

Conversely, does being poor mean we will automatically go to heaven? No it does not. St Augustine had to correct this idea, and he puts it in his own style:

“Listen, poor man, to my comments on your words. When you refer to yourself as Lazarus, that holy man covered with wounds, I am afraid your pride makes you describe yourself incorrectly. Do not despise rich men who are merciful, who are humble: or, to put it briefly, do not despise poor rich men. Oh, poor man!, be poor yourself; poor, that is, humble […]. Listen to me, then. Be truly poor, be devout, be humble.”

There’s also a structure to what Christ tells us today. There are four beatitudes, and four woes. The beatitudes finish with how blessed we are if we are persecuted for following Christ, whilst the woes finish with how terrible it is for us if the world speaks well of us, and these explain and shed light on the other beatitudes and woes. If we are faithful to Christ, sometimes it might result in poverty, hunger and sadness, whilst if we are faithful to the world, it might result in riches, a full stomach and laughter. But this life does not last for ever, whilst the next one does. Where do we want to spend eternity?

To follow Christ requires strength of character; to go against Him, so often, does not. But if we are weak, how do we avoid siding with the world? Someone once said: Christ does not choose the qualified, He qualifies the chosen. If we remain close to Christ, He will give us the grace to follow Him.

And there’s another thing: if we put Christ first, we can rely on Him to sort everything else out. But if we try to do it all ourselves, we will wear ourselves out, and never be truly satisfied. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

So why seek after riches? With Christ, we have all the riches we need.