Winning Eternal Life for Ourselves in Heaven
Readings: (1st: Am 6, 1. 4-7; Ps: 145, 6-10; 2nd: ITim 6, 11-16; Gos: Lk 6, 11-16)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matt 5, 4)! On this 26th Sunday, both the first reading and the gospel sound judgmental and point to the final end of the wicked while also, ensuring the comfort of the poor and those who are oppressed here and now. In a nutshell, today the church seems to say to us for the sake of posterity: “Disce quid es quid eris: memor esto, quod morieris” (learn what you are, and what you will be: remember that you will die!) In the first reading, the prophet Amos continues his treaty against the wicked, rich, wealthy and influential of the society who oppresses the weak and the poor. He vehemently pronounces the judgment of Yahweh on those who deceive themselves thinking that they are comfortable. This comfort is as good as the comfort of one lying on a bed with explosives beneath, or seating on a heap of gun powder while savoring the sweetness of a cup of honey. Amos’ judgment against such persons is “exile”, which depicts depravation of comfort itself. In order words, when their time is up, they will no longer be comfortable because, tempus omnia revelat (time reveals all things).
After her first stage of studies, Adaobi was offered a temporary IT-job in a fast food company where she was paid stipend which she valued so much at the end of each month. She saved it in order to help her complete her studies since she came from a very poor family. However, the company had a rule that whatever product damage that occurred during one’s shift, its cost would be partly deducted from the person’s monthly salary until the whole amount was fully paid. During one of Adaobi’s shift, she ran into trouble which resulted to the damage of some products. She was so distressed because it meant that she must work for about a year and six months before she could finish paying her debt. Fortunately, when she told her manager, Mrs. Obioma the whole truth about what happened, she had pity on her and cancelled the debt for her. After her IT, Adaobi went back to school and advanced her studies to Masters Level. Two years later she got married to a man who unknowing to her had purchased the same company where she had her IT few years back. The management board had decided to lay off all the old staff and employ new ones. When Adaobi knew about this she pleaded on behalf of Mrs. Obioma. Her plea was granted, and so she was retained. A year later, Adaobi herself became an executive board member of the company and saw to it that Mrs. Obioma was promoted to the post of the general manager of the company. Yes, she deserved it because, one good turn deserves another.
The gospel of today is unique in the sense that it touches very important aspects of Christian Theology, precisely Eschatology. First it concerns the comfort of those who mourn on earth and now (Matt 5, 4). Second, it concerns the Last Things: Death, Judgment, and Reward of the human person after the earthly sojourn with either Heaven or Hell (Heb 9, 27). Another important aspect of today’s gospel is that we must “make hay while the sun shines.” In order words, we must pay heed to the instructions of the good news in order to better ourselves now while there is still ample opportunity for us to do this rather than wait for Masses and intercession from our relatives when we must have died, which may or may not suffice. In all of this, the summary is that life of excessive comfort, display of affluence and luxury here on earth which does not impart positively on our neighbours and especially on the weak and the poor of our society will not profit us much at the end of time. They will not guarantee our ticket of being in the “bosom of Abraham.” We therefore need a rethink now by paying attention to the word of God and the clarion call it makes to us to use our earthly possession to help the poor and weak. Many thanks to one of the world’s richest man, Bill Gates who considered it important to plunge back into the society a sizable part of his wealth. (www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2011/05/). He is indeed the true rich wise man of our time who is preparing a place for himself here on earth as well as in heaven. He is wise enough to understand this famous Latin adage which says: “cotidiana vilescunt”, (everyday things, especially money, lose their appeal or value). They retain their value only by serving and servicing the society from which they were derived.
Furthermore, being mindful of the fact that this world shall pass away will help us lot to prepare for the Eternal Kingdom which: “…shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel like jasper…” (Rev 11-12), where there will be: “no longer any curse…. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the City, and his servant (like Lazarus), will serve him… there will be no more night…” (Rev 22, 3-4). This is the reward of those who while on earth prepared a place for themselves in the bosom of Abraham. On the contrary, those who oppress and neglect others like the rich man of today’s gospel will suffer damnation. It is however important to mention here that not all those who are rich and wealthy will be damned, because not all wealth were accumulated by “exploiting” people, but some people got theirs through their genuine effort of creating values. It is only those who became rich by trampling on and exploiting others, those who live recklessly with their wealth, those who mal-treat the weak and the poor of our society with impunity, and those who made the comfort and pleasures of this world their final destination. On the day of reckoning, it is our purple and fine linen, our luxuriant life of ease, comfort and love of wealth over and above our neighbour’s need that Christ will mock.
This 26th Sunday, and as he will ever be, Christ is the center of our celebration, who in the presence of Pilate stood like Lazarus covered with sores and wounds, speaking up as the witness of the truth. Only those of us who are focused and are not blindfolded by the excessive comfort of this world will easily notice and identify him in the numerous Lazarus’ around us in order to attend to Him. In light of the forgoing, Paul there advices us: “As a man (woman) dedicated to God…Fight a good fight of faith to win for your selves the Eternal Life…” This call to eternal life is extended to the whole of humanity, but only those who will work towards it with faith, patience, love of neighbour society, gentility of heart and reverence for God will get there. Only those who showed mercy to the poor and weak of our society will have a share in the in the bosom of Abraham in the Eternal Kingdom where “meliora speranda” (better things can be hoped for), after our sojourn here on earth.
Peace be with you all!