Sunday, October 14, 2018

The only wealth we take to heaven (Sunday homily)

This Gospel passage – this meeting between 
Jesus and the rich young man – 
reminds us that there is only one form of wealth 
that we can take with us after we die.

It is certainly not money. We will leave it all behind.
Money will mean nothing in the next life.
Nor is it fame. 
Rich people and politicians have streets, buildings and monuments named for them, but guess what? They still end up forgotten. 

The only wealth we can take with us is other people.
That’s why the most beautiful work any person can accomplish 
is to be a parent, to bring new life into the world. 
We can do this both in the natural sense, and in the spiritual sense.
Notice Jesus talks about those who give up family and children 
will “receive a hundred times more.” 

If I had raised a family, perhaps I would have matched my parents’ seven children. Maybe even more.

But as a priest, I have baptized hundreds of babies.
Probably married about two hundred or so couples so far.
Heard many thousands of confessions.
I take a special interest in our schoolchildren – you are all dear to me! 
Jesus has kept his promise, and given me children a hundred-fold!

So if you ever wonder what difference you can make as a priest, 
perhaps this gives you some idea.

But why stop there?
Parents, as beautiful as it is to cooperate with God and each other 
and bring new life into the world, 
you realize that your next task is to bring them into the next world, into God’s Kingdom.

This you promised when you brought them to be baptized, 
before God and before all the saints in heaven.
This is the purpose of the family, which we call “the domestic church.”
And the purpose of this parish family of Saint Remy is to help you.

My point being that it isn’t just a priest who begets spiritual life.
Every Christian is called to this. Every single one of us.

So if you ever wonder what difference you can make, 
or what the point of your life is; 
If you ever think, I’m too young, I’m not smart enough, 
I am past my prime, I am old and infirm;
What is the point of me being here?

Then I remind you: you are here to share eternal life with others.
Think how great your joy will be to arrive in heaven, 
and see those faces of people you helped get there?

And if you want to think in terms of self-interest:
Who do you think will be praying for you while in purgatory?
Both those ahead of you – who you helped to heaven – 
and those behind you, who are following your example?

The Bible says the heavenly Jerusalem will be a city of gold.
But what is gold to God is not a rock in the ground, but people!
God can have all the gold and silver and diamonds he wants, 
just by wishing it. But God the Son came to earth, 
and shed his blood, for people. He thirsts for souls.
We human beings – for all our failings and depravity – 
are the treasure God values above all. 

When I was a young man, I was away from the Catholic Church. 
But it was this insight that led me to realize 
that the mindset so common today – that population is a “problem,” 
and that there are “too many people” – 
is completely and totally anti-God, anti-Bible, and anti-Christian.

God never says, there are too many people. We humans say that.
This world is full of abundance – 
And yet greater wonders waiting to be discovered.
The reason there is poverty is not for lack of resources,
But because of corrupt and misguided government, 
and because of human selfishness.

To reiterate: people are the one great treasure there is.
This is what God cares about most; therefore, people – 
their needs, their dignity and their eternal salvation – 
must be our most important concern.

So, to our schoolchildren: think about this.
If people matter most of all, then that means you matter most of all!
You are of infinite value; you may not think so, but God thinks so!

And this also means that it matters so much how we treat each other.
School can be a time you make life-long friendships.
But it can also be a time of meanness and bullying – 
and that can have effects for a lifetime, too.

There were kids who bullied me in school; 
and there were times I was mean to others, 
or joined in laughter at their expense; 
or failed to do anything when someone was being mistreated.

If I could go back in time and change one thing, 
How I handled those things is something I would change.

High school students: you can be a powerful influence for good, 
just by setting an example treating people with decency, 
and stopping others from being thugs and bullies.
You will never regret being that kind of leader.

Making a difference in another person’s life is the best way to live.
And just think about what it will be like to arrive in heaven,
and to look around and see it filled with people you helped get there.
That is the best and only way to be truly rich.

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