“Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)
Last Sunday, Jesus refused to intervene in a property dispute of a man who had interrupted him while he was teaching. Jesus told us that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions. The rich man whose land yielded much is called a fool because, in his plan to enjoy his riches, he failed to consider the hungry, the sick, the homeless and the poor. Today’s Gospel passage picks up right here. Having quieted the young man who was only thinking of how to get his share of earthly properties, Jesus went on to teach us the reality of heaven, hell and purgatory as well as what we must do or avoid to make heaven.
- It is only those Things you give Away that Belong to You. To the young man who had come to Jesus seeking the secret to eternal life, Jesus responded: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22). Today, Jesus is repeating himself: “Sell your possessions and give alms; provide yourselves with … a treasure in the heavens.” (Luke 12:33). Kindness rendered to others selflessly is your ticket to the eternal bliss of heaven.
On the last day, Jesus says, the “King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:34-36).
Jesus was not lying at all when he said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” St. Basil and St. Ambrose would say if you are looking for a bank (a safe place or a barn) to store your riches, then consider the bellies of the poor, the houses of the orphans and widows. It is what you give out, (the help you render to others) that speaks on your behalf when you die. These are your true treasures because they can never be stolen or taken away from you.
- Heaven is the Reward of Righteousness. Jesus says to us today: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning and be like men who are waiting for their master to return from the marriage feast.” What does this mean? By asking us to gird our loins, Jesus is saying: “zip up.” Flee from immorality, flee from indecent dressing, do not let down your moral guard, and do not allow the devil entrance into your mind through unholy pictures, videos, books, conversations and the like. Girding your loins means placing a filter on what you consume through your phone, the internet and the media.
According to St. Gregory Nazianzen, “we gird our loins when by continence we control the lusts of the flesh. For the lust of men is in their loins … But because it is a small thing not to do evil, unless also men strive to labour in good works, it is added, ‘and your lamps burning in your hands; for we hold burning lamps in our hands, when by good works we show forth bright examples to our neighbours.” That is to say, it is not enough that we avoid lust and sins of the flesh, by adding that our lamps must be kept burning, Jesus is teaching us that we must also, carry out good works (show good examples to those living in darkness).
- Different Types of Punishment Indicates the reality of Purgatory. In today’s first reading, the book of Wisdom clearly spelt out the reality of heaven and hell when it says: “The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were expected by thy people. For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies thou didst call us to thyself and glorify us.” (Wisdom 18:7-8). While the blessed are glorified, the wicked are punished. This is exactly what Jesus teaches us in our Gospel passage.
a. For him who goes about beating the menservants and the maidservants as well as eating and drinking and getting drunk, Jesus says the master of the house will punish him and put him with the unfaithful. Here Jesus shows us that there is such a place reserved for the unfaithful.
b. For the servant who knew his master’s will but did not make ready or act according to his will, he shall receive a severe beating. Note that unlike the first, this servant is not transferred to the place of the unfaithful.
c. Jesus then mentions another servant who did not know his master’s will and yet in his ignorance did what deserved a beating. Such servant according to Jesus would be given only a light beating and still unlike the first, this servant does not go to the place of the unfaithful.
If we are to understand hell as the place of the unfaithful, it follows that there is a place other than heaven and hell where souls go to receive either severe or light beating. This place is what the church calls purgatory. As the Catechism puts it: “Purgatory is the final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” (CCC 1030-1031) This purification is done so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
- Faith Makes Everything Come Together. Our second reading today may be considered as a hymn of the praises of faith. Behind the great achievements of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob was a strong and determined faith; a firm assurance within them of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, without faith, it would be impossible for us to please God as his children. Too often we think of faith only in terms of what we stand to receive from God. We are very quick to recite passages such as Mark 11:24 which says: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” What we do not often realise is that faith also applies to the everyday choices that we make. Every sin we commit is a statement of what we believe. The question we must ask ourselves today is: ‘What do my actions say about my faith?’
Let us pray: Almighty ever living God, bring to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters and may we merit to enter heaven which is the inheritance which you have promised. Amen.
Bible Study: Wisdom 18:6-9, Ps. 33:1,12,18-20,22, Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19, Luke 12:32-48).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu