Homily 32nd week in Ordinary Time
I remember going to the clinic or the doctor when I was a kid to get a shot. I was afraid at first, and I fought it. The fight made it worse than it was. When I surrendered, it didn’t hurt as much as when I fought it. When I trusted that my parents and the doctor or nurse intended the best for me, then it was acceptable. Then I could tolerate the pain. The saying goes that “you only live once.” This worldly saying suggests that you need to consume as much as you can before you die. I saw another sign at the lunch counter at the downtown drugstore in Hermiston. The sign said, “Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway.” Both sayings address life and death. Both sayings express pessimistic attitudes. Both sayings imply you can’t win because death can’t be defeated. The lie is that there are no rules, no right or wrong, no virtues that matter, and especially no “golden rule.” It becomes a “dog eat dog” and a – “the one who dies with the most toys, wins” – kind of world. Pain and sacrifice should be avoided unless there is an acceptable calculated risk for time-limited material gain. That is hedonism: no pain, more pleasure, more material gain. “What profit have we from all the toil which we toil at under the sun?” (Eccl 1:3). The answer is in the negative: No absolute profit or gain is possible. Even if some temporary profit or gain is achieved, it will ultimately be canceled out by death, the great leveler (cf. Eccl 2:14–15; 3:19–20).
Christian spirituality has an opposing view. In a world of sin, pain is unavoidable, but pain can be endured and overcome. Pain suffered for the greater good is suffering for the glory of God, who saves the soul. You only die once, but you can live forever. Laying your life down to save others leads to eternal life. (cf. Jn 15:13) Life in God is the reward for a temporal life well-lived through the love of God and neighbor. “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better. Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.” (Phil 1:21-24) Give God everything you have. He gives you His love from the beginning, and you should be happy with what He offers you in the end if you return His love: eternal life. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Mt 6:19-21; cf. Mt 6:25-34) He who dies having loved the most wins. Who loves the most? Jesus Christ has shown us that God does. But it’s not a contest between God and us. God doesn’t want to beat or defeat us. We do that to ourselves. God does not compete with us. God conquered sin and death to free us. God wins our love with His Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection. What more could a soul desire? We can learn to love from how He loved us first. (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)
Thus says the LORD:
The people who escaped the sword
find favor in the wilderness.
As Israel comes forward to receive rest,
from afar the LORD appears:
With age-old love I have loved you;
so I have kept my mercy toward you.
Again I will build you, and you shall stay built,
virgin Israel; (Jer 31:2-4)