Is it possible for us to eschew the riches of this world for the joys of service and compassion?
The Bible seems to revel in contradiction, the juxtaposition of opposites. Sometimes these opposites are to demonstrate the qualitative difference between those who are participating in the Kingdom (the eternal realm) and those who are not; such as Jesus saying that John the Baptist is the greatest prophet, but he is less than the least in the Kingdom of God. Or again, Jesus says the poor widow who dropped her two cents in the temple collection actually gave more than all the wealthy gave. Sometimes it is to illustrate transformative spiritual truths, usually having to do with life and death, for instance: unless a seed falls to the earth and dies it cannot grow. Or again, if one seeks to save one’s life, that person will lose it. And then there is the basic difference in the economies and ethics of the world versus the economies and ethics of God’s reign; to wit: The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The greatest in the world lord it over the poor and the weak, whereas in God’s Realm, the greatest is the servant of all. St. Paul sums up these differences by writing, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the wise and the wisdom of mortals is but foolishness to God. We are people who are called to ask, seek, and knock hard on the door of truth in order to discern what being a person of faith means. Which set of values do we feel are closest to the message of The Christ? Is it possible for us to eschew the riches of this world for the joys of service and compassionate identification with the life of Christ? In this week’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that in his Father’s house there are many mansions. That is to say, there is no shortage of space and no shortage of variety for people to practice faith. But this phrase about housing also calls to mind Jesus’ lamentation that even though the birds of the air have their nests and foxes have their holes, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Still, no room at the inn! Here the Son of Man is a vagabond, an outcast, an expendable one, dependent on the compassion and hospitality of a few fellow travelers. Yet, Jesus avers, in his Father’s House there is infinite space and accommodations. I take this to mean that those who seek to be Christian will always feel a certain dis-ease and discomfort in this world. We will find ourselves feeling the pain of the outcast and speaking up for those who the world seeks to ignore and exclude. But in the life eternal that we are called to pursue and practice, we find ourselves, paradoxically, always comfortable in our own skin, free in our own souls, sensitive to the life within, which allows us to feel for and with all whom we encounter especially those in need. The down payment for one of these mansions is our baptism in identification with the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The monthly mortgage is an active life lived in sensitivity and service of others.