Last Sunday’s Gospel (where Jesus speaks about divorce) presented an interesting challenge given that the folks listening to my homily are mostly elderly and widowed, or else have been married for a ginormous number of years! I did speak about divorce, but the major focus was on our relationship with each other as a community of friends. The same qualities that make for a happy marriage also make for a happy community.
The young man in Sunday’s Gospel has a different focus: “What must I do to be saved?” The focus is totally on himself. He would have been quite comfortable in today’s culture. It’s very much evident, for example, in all the political commercials and stump speeches of this election year, as the candidates try to show you and I “What’s in it for me” if you vote for them, instead of “What’s in it for us.” America has always tried to balance appreciation for the individual with appreciation for the common good. Lately, though, it’s unbalanced in favor of fervent individualism. That’s also true of our Church. The result: discord and division.
That’s why Jesus tried to point the young man – and us – in a different direction. For Jesus, salvation is not an “I” thing. It is first and foremost a “we” thing. He asks us to be bonded in a close companionship founded on mutual love, care and compassion, to be a community where everything is shared, where my/our main concern is to see that the needs of the brothers and sisters are taken care of. When we all give, we all receive. That’s the wisdom and prudence celebrated in the First Reading.
The unhappiest people I know are those whose world does not extend too far past the surface of their skin. “It’s all about me” is their major concern, manifested most clearly in their complaints about this, that, and everything else. The happiest people have experienced that Jesus was absolutely right when he said that those who look to the well-being of others will “receive a hundred times more in this present age.” Oh my … do they ever!!!!
Be God’s smile for someone today!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.