“Giving heed to the exhortation of the Lord to ‘give up’ things that do not count and instead to ‘take up’ the greater priorities of our Christian life!
(Based on Ezek 28:1-10 and Mt 19:23-30 – Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time)
Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near the modern Naples, in the region of Campania in Italy.
This city was greatly devastated – destroyed and buried – by nearly 13- 20 feet of ash and pumice, in the volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The dreadful eruption killed the inhabitants of the city and buried it under tons of ash. During the excavation, plaster was made use to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held dead bodies. This made way for one to see the exact position that the person was in, when he or she died.
Several years later, as the construction workers were laying a foundation for a building outside the city of Pompeii, they found something very strange…
They found a corpse of woman, who probably had been fleeing from the eruption, but had got caught in the shower of hot ashes!
The weird part was that the woman’s hands clutched jewels, which were preserved in a very good condition!
The jewels were all hers…
… but death had rendered them useless for her!
That perhaps, is the bottom-line of life, isn’t it?
Treasures of this world are just not a wise investment…
… they can neither be taken with us at the end of life
… neither can they be enjoyed for but a few years on the earth
These are the sentiments and the teachings that are transmitted by the Lord in today’s Gospel.
Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19: 23)
The Gospel goes on to say that, “when the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished…” (Mt 19: 25)
It is fairly understandable, that just like the disciples, we too find ourselves in a state of amazement, wonder or even shock, at the words of the Lord concerning richness.
Could Jesus “really” mean that the rich won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
Was Jesus meaning that all wealth is categorically bad and therefore to be dumped off?
One of the prevailing dominant notions with respect to riches, in the Old Testament was that, they were considered to be a sign of God’ special favour.
There are several references for the same…
In Gen 24: 35: “Abraham’s servant tells Laban, ‘The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy.’
In Job 42:12: “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.”
In Prov 10: 22: ” It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it.”
But the Old Testament also very clearly points out that these material blessings ought to be undoubtedly accompanied by a concern and care for the poor…
In Ps 132: 15: “God will bless Zion with abundant provisions and satisfy her poor with food”
In Ps 37: 11: “The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace”
Thus the teachings of the Scriptures point to a greater responsibility that is placed on the rich.
This responsibility finds it onus on discovering God as the greatest treasure and richness of one’s life.
The Prophet Habakkuk gives beautiful expression to this clarion call:
“Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” (Hab 3: 17-18a)
This then is the spirit of “richness” that Jesus, the culmination of the Laws and the Prophets calls forth for.
“Richness” that rests not on material wealth…
… but on God, the Source of all wealth and prosperity
“Wealth” that doesn’t pride on external glory…
… but on the Lord, the giver and provider of every richness and gift
Our lives sometimes gets so pre-occupied and anxious with….
… garnering of material wealth
… planning on amassing greater resources
… harvesting mighty fields of glory and richness
… that God gets pushed out of life and the Source and Sustainer of all goodness finds no place in our hearts and minds!
But Jesus makes us to realize the need to discover, maintain and hold on to the Lord as the Supreme Treasure of our life…
… and consider all other riches and wealth as flowing from His Mercy
… with a duty towards sharing it with the needy and the disadvantaged!
Prophet Ezekiel reminds us of the miserable end of the prince of Tyre who savagely took false pride in his riches and position, considering himself even “to be a god” (Cf. Ezek 28:2)
“… by your great wisdom in trade, you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth; therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you consider yourself as wise as a god, therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you, the most terrible of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor…” (Ezek 28:5-7)
Instead of clinging on to worldly wealth…
… may we cling on the Lord, who alone can help us to find the true meaning of our lives!
Instead of holding on to material glory…
… may we hold on to the Kingdom of Heaven, where alone can we find the perfect peace and happiness!
As goes a beautiful quote: “A person is no fool to give up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”
Let us realize: Treasures of this world are just not a wise investment…
… they can neither be taken with us at the end of life
… neither can they be enjoyed for but a few years on the earth!
Instead, may we give heed to the exhortation of the Lord to “give up” things that do not count and instead to “take up” the greater priorities of our Christian life!
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Riches can prick us with a thousand troubles in getting them, as many cares in preserving them, more anxieties in spending them…