Generosity and Love

5.24.18  Thurs. wk. 7 – Ordinary Time (II)
Letter of St. James  5: 1 – 6
Gospel  of  Mark  9:  41 – 50  

†Jesus said to his disciples “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.  It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
     “Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”   The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy     Generosity and Love

In our first Reading this morning James denounces the willful self-destruction of people who overly indulge themselves.  He writes: “Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten…that corrosion of your gold and silver will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like fire”. (James 5:11)  And he also cries out on behalf of the lowly: “Behold the wages you withheld from your workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts”. (John 9:41)

In the Gospel this morning †Jesus points out that the life of discipleship is not just about us, not just about how we act.  Discipleship is about how we live in community – what we do does affect others and how we live with one another.  And †Jesus says: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, you will surely not lose your reward”. (John 9:41)  †Jesus also engages in a bit of hyperbole in this reading – He really doesn’t expect us to “cut off” our hands or “cut off” our feet or “pluck out” our eyes.  But †Jesus is making the point  – that we will never be free if we don’t stop denying that certain things are spiritually harmful for us.  There are things out there that do not do us a bit of good, and these things must be kept out of our life.  Just as a doctor has to remove a diseased organ to preserve the life of the patient, we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin, that leads to spiritual death – cut it out of our life.

So between these two passages (the Letter of James and the Gospel of Mark) which focus on ‘self-centered sin’, we have our Responsorial Psalm, which proclaims the first Beatitude.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”. (Matt.5:3)  It is this Beatitude that inspires us to discipleship – discipleship through simplicity and charity.   

In his recent Apostolic Exhortation on “Holiness in Today’s World” – Pope Francis writes: “Wealth insures nothing…We can become so self-satisfied that we have no room for God’s Word – for the love of our brothers and sisters – or for the enjoyment of the most important things in life”. (Gaudete et Exsultate, 68)  According to Pope Francis, we miss out on the greatest treasures of all – which is union with Christ through our relationships with other people, because we become so self-centered.   The Holy Father continues: “†Jesus calls blessed – ‘those who are poor in Spirit, those who have a poor heart, for there – the Lord can enter with His perennial newness’”. (Ibid) 

We were created out of love – God’s love for us – and we were created for love – to love God and love one another.  But how do we express gratitude for ‘the gift of life’ that God has given to us?   We express our gratitude by the charity we show to our neighbor and to those in need.  That’s how we show gratitude – by giving back to others.  Three hundred of our parishioners witnessed to this gratitude.  On this past weekend – during our ‘Food-packaging Event’, they packaged up 75,000 meals for the poor.  Now – I am sure if you asked anyone who was there – they would say: “It was no big deal, it was just a couple of hours of my Saturday morning, no big deal.  I was happy to do it”.   That was really great!  †Jesus declared that any kindness given to the people of God will not lose its reward – even the smallest kindness will be rewarded.  God has showered us with His abundant goodness and kindness, and ‘poverty of spirit’ is a matter of gratitude.  Everything is a gift from God – even the smallest thing – even giving up an hour on a Saturday morning.  To the very smallest effort – God says: “YES – thank you!”  He does.  Even the desire to give to another person, that desire is a gift from God.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) was an early Church Father and he wrote: “God furnished to each person, according to His Will, the ability to do something good.  None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability – given by the One who said: ‘Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ – will by no means lose his reward’”. (from: On The Christian Mode of Life, 8.1)  All of us have been given the ability – through the Holy Spirit – to do some good.  If we go through a day and have not been good to somebody, we’re in trouble – because it means we have shut God out of our life.  Every day we should be engaged in random acts of kindness – just little things – it doesn’t have to be big – just little ways of showing kindness.

Today, we are called by the apostle James to live a life of generosity and charity.  Today, we are called by †Jesus to remove from our lives, obstacles to being generous and loving.  Again the words of Pope Francis: “†Jesus calls us to share in the life of those most in need, the life lived by the apostles and ultimately to configure ourselves to †Jesus, who though rich, ‘made Himself poor’ (2 Cor.8:9).  Being poor of heart – that is holiness”. (Gaudete et Exsultate, 70)     

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.