THURSDAY HOMILY: The Way of Simplicity. Learning to See Lazarus
need" (Philippians 4:12). Paul was free from the love of money.
The Gospels of Matthew and Mark describe an encounter between Jesus and a wealthy young man. This man had followed the commandments since his youth, but Jesus told him it was not enough. He instructed the young man to give up his possessions and follow Him. We read that the man refused and went away sad because his possessions possessed him.
Consider the sobering words which follow this encounter: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19, Mark 10).
When we recognize our own poverty of spirit we are able to live lives that are dependent upon Jesus. Only He can satisfy the hunger of the human heart. When we have Him, we have everything; even though we may possess nothing. We discover the secret of heaven's economy: those who live in simplicity are the richest people on the earth. Jesus called them the "poor in spirit." He promised them blessedness. He proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matt 5:3).
Some Christians are called to a voluntary embrace of economic poverty as part of a specific vocation. However, most of us live in the material world of bills, possessions, and financial challenges. We are to receive them with gratitude and use them with the freedom which comes from a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship to this world - and the goods of this world- should mirror that of God's Son whom we follow. Jesus was born in a manger. As an adult he had no place to lay his head. He was raised in a simple home- by a woman whose heart recognized true wealth.
Remember the words that the angel spoke to Mary when she asked how it could be that she would bear the Messiah. "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37) Mary understood that when you have the Lord, you have it all. She lived in the heavenly economy, and if we choose, we can live there too. There is an invitation to simplicity in Gods loving plan for each one of us. To those who voluntarily embrace it, simplicity becomes an invitation to love, and a school of sanctity. All relationships, with persons as well as with the goods of the earth, are changed by its embrace.
Painful experiences can become the material for personal transformation and enable us to open ourselves to the fullness of life. Through simple surrender to the loving plan of God, we enter into communion with the Lord and experience His loving gaze. Fear dissipates and everything is bathed in love. The way of simplicity paves a path to peace. The capacity to see life differently comes through from prayer. Contemplatives comprehend, or rather, are comprehended by, the experience of communion with the Lord. They fall in love with God and need nothing else.
Father Louis (Thomas Merton) wrote on November 10, 1963, "Whatever I may have written, I think it all can be reduced in the end to this one root truth: that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another in Christ, in the Church which is His Mystical Body. It is also a witness to the fact that there is and must be, in the church, a contemplative life which has no other function than to realize these mysterious things, and return to God all the thanks and praise that human hearts can give Him."
Simplicity strips away only what impedes love. In finding our proper relationship to the goods of the earth-not utterly rejecting them, craving them, or turning them into an idol-we find true freedom. Our eyes are opened. We not only learn to see Lazarus, we see Jesus in Lazarus.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: simplicity, evangelical counsels, voluntary poverty, poverty of spirit, holiness, Bosom of Abraham, Lazarus and the Rich man, contemplation, contemplative, Yesr of Faith, Deacon Keith Fournier
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