Lay hold of eternal life
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 25, 2022
Lay hold of eternal life, to which you have been called.
I love the colors of fall. Don’t you? While I mourn the loss of summer, briefly in early September but once we get to middle to later part of September and early October, I’m pretty pleased to be in the season of autumn. But then there comes the realization that this beautiful time of the year is so temporary. Autumn beauty is fleeting only here for a short time, and then it falls to the ground to fade and be covered by the snows of winter. Unlike the bright green of spring that contains within itself promise of new life and the beauty of birth and growth, the reds and yellows and browns of fall all carry with them the proclamation of death. A beauty of a different sort – a passing away.
The warnings of the readings for this Sunday fit well with these autumn days. They are sobering but, if headed, also consoling reminders of our citizenship in heaven and the beauty that flowers in us when we die to this world when we treat its beauty and pleasures and riches like the fall colors. Wonderful, but not lasting. Gifts not to be grasped at, but appreciated, shared and held up as glimpses of future glory. For God has given the things of this world to us not as ends in themselves, but as signs of eternal goodness.
They are to help us on our way to heaven but not lull us into earthly complacency which we see very clearly in our first reading from the book of the prophet Amos. They’re so lulled by their earthly pleasures and riches that they don’t realize the impending peril they’re in. Well, the good things of this world are given to help us on the way to heaven not to lull us into complacency. Unfortunately, like the rich man in the Gospel today, we often mistake the things of this world for their creator and, over time, place our confidence in them instead of their author. This is an eternally catastrophic mistake. Because if we try to hold on to earthly riches, we find that they eventually just slip through our fingers.
We also find that our quest for the things of this world has done something truly tragic. It has brought us a ticket, a one-way ticket, to the wrong side of the great chasm that the Lord Jesus speaks of in the Gospel parable. The chasm which separates God and those who love him from those who have chosen to love something and someone else.
The Gospel passage from Luke comes as part of this series of lessons we’ve been receiving from the Lord as he makes his journey to Jerusalem. Since the middle of June, so almost three months now, we have been with the Lord since he’s turned to the south to culminate his earthly mystery, Kenos, in his passion and death on a cross and then his glorious resurrection. He takes his disciples with him to make his pilgrimage from death to life. And in the liturgy, we join them. Intentionally, the church has joined them each week, to learn these lessons of discipleship.
The lesson this Sunday is that what we do in this passing world matters. Don’t be lulled into thinking that it doesn’t. Clinging to the things of this world is literally a dead end. Imitating the Lord’s infinite generosity has value that lasts. Using the things of this world wisely and generously, every day, is the measure of our membership in God’s eternal kingdom of truth and peace and love.
So, this Sunday’s lesson — pretty very straightforward. Learn the lesson of the fall colors, and share what we have while it lasts. Help those in need. Appreciate earthly beauty and wealth but realize that it is fleeting and instead lay hold of eternal life to which we are called.