Nineteenth Sunday (Year C)
(Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12; Luke 12:32-48)
This was the saving of the virtuous, for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes you made us glorious by calling us to you.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, those words, from the OT book of Wisdom, which refer originally to God’s destruction of the pursuing Egyptian army in the Red Sea in order to bring His People out of slavery, find a two-fold relevance and fulfilment in the New Testament: first of all when Jesus breaks the bonds of sin and death and ascends -- in the glory of the Spirit -- to heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of the Father; and secondly when through baptism, human sins are washed away and the prospect of heavenly life restored to men by the gift of the Spirit of Jesus. And these two distinct events – where salvation is first of all won and then allowed to exert its saving power -- are made one through our faith in Jesus.
This new life with its promise of glory is, however, but the outline, the beginning and the end, so to speak, of our salvation; the main body -- all aspects of our character and all actions of our making – must, whatever their apparent significance or insignificance, serve to make a coherent and ultimately glorious whole of our lives, and therefore must be penetrated, through and through, by that original gift of divine significance, namely, our faith.
A few words from the second reading explain why faith is so supremely important for our life in Christ:
Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
Our Christian hope is for those heavenly realities and that heavenly fulfilment put before us by Jesus in promises that resonate to the furthest depths of our being, made -- as we human beings uniquely are -- in the image and likeness of God, realities which cannot be apprehended by us here and now, because they transcend us, but which, in the ultimate realization of God’s providential plan, will be our sublime fulfilment in the glory of Jesus. Nevertheless, such blessings hoped for from God, according to the promise of the Scriptures, can begin to be appropriated by us, even here and now, through faith in Jesus, in Whose divine humanity the fullness of God dwells, by the working of His Spirit in us, through the ministry of Mother Church. We can, indeed, begin here and now, to truly appreciate such heavenly realities and really apprehend something of the fulfilment they offer through faith, because:
Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
We must turn to the Gospel, however, to learn an aspect of supreme importance within this broad outline of our salvation. Jesus there tells His disciples:
Provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.
Now the reason why He tells them to provide a treasure for themselves in heaven is because, as He went on to explain:
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Because He is seeking to draw us, in Himself, to heaven where there is no gold or silver, no tight purses or secure safes, He draws attention to our heart -- the seat of human affection and attachment – for which personal love alone is the supreme and exclusive treasure.
Likewise, when He advises His disciples to:
Sell what you have and give alms
He is not really interested in seeing us reduced to poverty: He wants us to open our hearts, unreservedly and fully, to receive His Father’s gift of the Kingdom:
It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom;
He wants us to unreservedly love the promise and the prospect of heaven, where, He assures us, our dearest and most precious treasure -- our heart’s treasure -- awaits us.
And so we have this outline of our salvation:
(In) the saving of the virtuous: by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes you made us glorious by calling us to you.
By the glorious Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, and through our faith in Him, God has called us to Himself. And we have learnt, broadly speaking, how that glorious calling is to be realised: through the prospect and promises of hope, faith leads us to open our minds, hearts, and lives to the ultimate inspiration of divine charity. That is the way we are to finally attain ‘our treasure’, our hope, or, as Jesus put it earlier, ‘the Kingdom of God’:
Seek the kingdom of God, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Jesus spoke repeatedly of the Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven; St. Paul, however, tells us that the Kingdom of God is also the Kingdom of the Son:
He (the Father) has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. (Col. 1:13-14)
Why does Paul speak of the Kingdom of the Son whereas Jesus always spoke of the Kingdom of God?
First of all Paul speaks in this way because, ultimately, Jesus Himself is the Kingdom of God present in our world and in our lives.
And secondly, because the Kingdom of the Son, of which St. Paul spoke, will ultimately to be handed over to the Father, and in that way become the Kingdom of God, the Father. Listen to Paul’s explanation:
In Christ all shall be made alive, but each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He (Christ) must reign till He (God the Father) has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. … Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him (God the Father) who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:22-28)
Jesus is the load-stone drawing the affection of our hearts to God by the fact that He is God-in-human (our)-flesh. Like loves like: and our shared flesh enables us to respond most deeply to Him Who is God-like-us. Our response to His promises, His example and call, our faith in Him and our human love for Him, will gently open our hearts to the working of His Spirit Who will then form us gradually in His divine likeness until we come to love God for His divine beauty and goodness.
From this we can see that our personal treasure will ultimately be the glorious Jesus when He returns to make the final proclamation and manifestation of His eternal glory and to hand all that is His over to the Father, so that He, the Father, might be ‘All in all’.
Now we can, as it were, ‘pull all the strings together’ in order to get a complete picture, a full understanding.
‘Treasure in heaven’ is essential, as Jesus Himself said, if our hearts are to be fully, totally attached to heaven. Faith guides us towards the attainment of our heavenly hope, but faith is essentially commitment directly to the teaching of Jesus and only mediately commitment to the Person of Jesus; love, on the other hand, being, most accurately, the gift of divine charity, commits our whole being immediately, directly, to the very Person of Jesus. This personal commitment to Jesus – mediated, I say, by faith in His Person and in His word, and directly attained through our sharing in the gift of divine charity -- is absolutely and supremely essential, indeed, it is the only essential, for Jesus is Himself the Kingdom for us. And this love, being, as I said, a heavenly gift, indeed the Gift of the Spirit, our sharing in Divine Being of union in Charity, transcends our present time and this visible world and takes us into the eternity of God Himself where Jesus will, as we have heard, ultimately hand over His Kingdom to the Father and lead us -- as members of His Body in and with Him -- to love, yes, to love divinely, the Father Himself, as Jesus would have us love Him, for the Father must become, as you heard, ‘All in all’.
Faith is the ‘substance of things hoped for’; by our faith, in our life of discipleship on earth, we can already gain some experience of what will be our heavenly fellowship with Jesus, before the Father, in the Spirit. That experience, that fellowship, that love of charity, can and should deepen within us throughout our life on earth, but that can only come about in Mother Church, through our faith in her proclamation of the Gospel, and by the grace of her sacraments, which bestow on us the Spirit of Love and Truth Who unites and binds together Father and Son.
And then, for all those faithful sons and daughters of Mother Church who thus grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus our Saviour, the words of the Psalmist are most beautifully appropriate and consoling:
Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. I will deliver him and honour him and show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:14-16)