Bottom line: It may not mean immediately giving up one's possession, but it does involve paying attention to Jesus' gaze of love.
When I was young, my brothers and I enjoyed playing chess. The only thing was, my younger brother Louie almost always beat me. I was good at the opening gambit and would sometimes capture a couple of his pieces. But Louie was great at the end game. He had a way of thinking ahead and keeping the final goal in mind.
That's what I want to talk about in this new homily series: the end game. We can only succeed if we keep our final goal in mind. Between now and Christ the King Sunday, we will have Gospels which speak about the goal of our lives.
The series on the end game follows a mini-series on asking the right questions. You may remember them: What does Jesus' suffering mean and how do we join ours to his? Why did God make us male and female? And Jesus paramount question: Who do you say that I am?
Well, today a man asks Jesus this question: "What must I do inherit eternal life?" Now, that's a darn good question. In some ways it's the only the question. This life is brief and eternity is a long time. Recently I have become more dramatically aware of the fragility of life. I asked my doctor what would happen if my aneurysm broke. She said, dial 911. She also mentioned I might faint and internally bleed to death. It was a sobering thought but I already knew I could die in an instant - a stroke, heart attack, accident. I think about Matt Galdo, a relatively young man. At the Monroe Walmart he simply collapsed and died on the way to the hospital. That could happen to me - or you, no matter how young and healthy you are.
All of us should think about the "end game". There's a Latin term for this "sub specie aeternitatis". It means "under the aspect of eternity", that is, to live with eternity in mind. The rich man in today's Gospel was thinking about eternity. He was a good man who kept the commandments.
The Gospel says, "Jesus looking at him, loved him..." This the only time in the Gospel that we hear about Jesus looking at an individual with love. Scripture scholar Mary Healy writes, "It is this gaze of divine love that would have captivated the man's heart and moved him to surrender all his possessions - if he had seen it."
Sadly, preoccupied with his own thoughts, he seems not to have noticed Jesus' gaze. He had many possessions - which could include properties and estates. To sell them would have been a complicated process, but he could have done so much good for the poor. He would have amassed "treasures in heaven" and have become a disciple of Jesus.
Instead "his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions." Now, Jesus is not necessarily asking you and I to give up our possessions. Peter kept his house and his boat, at least for a time. The women of Galilee followed Jesus but continued to have access to their material resources. The rich man, however, could have been like St. Francis - a living example of total renunciation. When you think about it, that's something you and I will have to do sooner or later.
I think I've told you that I have never seen a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. You can't take it with you - but you can send it ahead. You can, as Jesus says, "have treasure in heaven". We'll talk more about this in our series on the End Game. We'll see Jesus challenge to live sub specie aeternitatis - from the perspective of eternity.
Next Sunday we will see two brothers focused on present glory - and how Jesus helps them to get a new perspective. For today let's keep in mind the rich man's question, What must I do inherit eternal life? It may not mean immediately giving up one's possession, but it does involve paying attention to Jesus' gaze of love. As our Psalm says, "Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy! Amen.
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (28th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru