Monday: Twentieth Week of the Year: August 15, 2016
Year II: Ezekiel 24:15-24; Canticle: Deuteronomy 32:18-21; Matthew 19:16-22
The Responsorial (Deuteronomy, chapter 32) warns: “You have forgotten God who gave you birth.”
Ezekiel 24:15-24 teaches us that our timing is off: we rejoice when we should mourn and we mourn when we should rejoice. It is because we forget the truths we should be thinking about.
God told Ezekiel he was about to lose his wife, the “delight of his eyes.” But he was not to show the customary signs of mourning. This was to warn the Israelites that, because of the way they were living, they were going to lose “the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, the passion of your souls.” But he tells them not to go about showing signs of grief. When this happens, Ezekiel promises, “You will learn that I am the Lord.” And that is something worth rejoicing in. To know that things got so because “You have forgotten God who gave you birth” is a discovery of what religion is worth.
When we neglect the worship that keeps us aware of our true relationship with God; when we get absorbed in the activities and achievements that excite us in this world as if they were going to last forever; when we sometimes even disobey God’s commandments as if he did not exist, we feel good about our lives. We think things are going well for us. But that is when we should mourn. A voice is saying to us, “You have forgotten God who gave you birth.”
Then, when the way we are living brings suffering and sorrow into our lives — as inevitably (if not always instantly) happens when we don’t live by the “manufacturer’s instructions” — we give in to sadness and complain. But that is when we should rejoice. We are receiving a wake-up call. If we take it seriously, we can avoid worse misery ahead. We can choose to “remember God who gave us birth.”
In Matthew 19:16-22 Jesus met a man who thought he was living a pretty moral life by keeping all the Commandments. He was glad of it and should have been. But there was a voice within him mourning the “more” that was missing. He listened to it. He asked Jesus, “What more do I need to do?”
Jesus called him to a conversion from the good to the best. He offered him the “perfect” way of life: Christianity. He said the price was high, but the payoff more than worth it: “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus meant this radically, but not literally. It was much more radical than literally getting rid of his possessions; the man had to renounce “owning” anything on this earth. Whether he literally gave up legal ownership was irrelevant. Whatever he had, whether more or less, would henceforth belong to God. That is to “sell all.”
Do we need this reminder?
“Follow me” is an invitation to minister by “imitating Jesus along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren out of love for God…. the love Jesus wishes to be imitated by all who follow him. It is ‘the new commandment.’” But the young man “went away sad.” He had lost perspective, forgotten God who gave him birth.” Jesus brings us all into “crisis”—a blessed moment, from which we go up or down.1
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Rejoice in anything that lets you show love — at any cost.
1John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, no. 20