Sunday, 14 February 2010
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Shaftesbury
Jer 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12-20; Lk 6:17-26.
Recently it seems that I am being frequently reminded of the fact that I'm not as young as I used to be. A while ago I met up with some old school friends, and the talk turned to their various pension plans. We never used to talk about pensions when we went to the pub for a pint! It turned out that I was the only one who hadn't given serious thought to the level of my retirement income.
And it occurred to me that there was something rather ironic about that fact. All my school friends are atheists, and thinking a little further ahead still in life, I realised that I was probably the only one who had started to arrange my plans for what I'd be hoping to do when I'd passed to the great beyond and was no longer able to claim my pension.
Today's readings all point us towards the futility of trusting in material goods, whether they are solid houses or future pensions. Jesus says, "Alas you rich... alas you who have your fill now", and Jeremiah says, "A curse on the man who relies on things of the flesh".
It's very easy for us to put our trust in possessions, especially when we have them. But you don't need to be a Christian to see that worldly fortune can be very changeable, and that ultimately the things of this world do not last. We cannot put our trust in them.
The only one we can trust is the Lord Our God, and we can trust him because of the promises He has made to us, ultimately, the promise of heaven. The most solid sign of that promise is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Saint Paul was writing to the Corinthians because it seems that they had stopped believing that it was possible for life to go on after death, it seems that pagan philosophies had told them that the “body” cannot rise, and St Paul reminded them that the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that it is possible: “But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead”(1 Cor 16:19). Not only that, Christ's resurrection is the promise of the future glory that awaits those who trust in Him, He is the “fruits fruits”(Ibid).
We too live in a world where few people believe in life after death, at least in any explicit way. And yet this is the most fundamental of all our Christian beliefs, it is the one that affects the whole way we view reality. Jesus pointed this out in the Beatitudes that we just heard: He said happy are the poor, and alas to you who are rich. These are statements that are meaningless nonsense if there is no hereafter. They only make sense as a promise by Our Lord that in eternal life every injustice will be resolved, and the happiness He calls us to will be achieved.
If we really believe this then it turns all worldly values upside down. What matters ceases to be whether or not I possess something, or whether I am financially secure. What matters is whether or not doing or not doing something will help me on the way to heaven. Everything else is secondary. We do, and should, joyfully accept good things as gifts from God, little tasters (appetizers) of the happiness of heaven, and yet we must still not value them as ends in themselves.
The question today's readings put to us is: Where do I put my trust, in God or in my possessions? I may not have a pension plan, but that doesn't mean that I'm not materialistic in my outlook. The real pension plan that I need to save for in the one that only fully matures in heaven