On first reading all today’s Scriptures seem a little obtuse, vague and even contradictory. They can be difficult to understand. Why on earth would Jesus instruct the "seventy others .......
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [1 TIMOTHY 6: 11 – 16] I see Paul giving us a very practical, hands-on, definition of righteousness as he expands the word into “godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Then, we are truly equipped to “fight the good fight” and, in so doing, “take hold of the eternal life” to which we are called.
Is this not one of the most valuable tenets of our faith which is so frequently underplayed and unrecognised …. the fact that we have been called? Not only called by name but also called to a specific task – that of
TAKING HOLD OF ETERNAL LIFE. Here we really need to broaden our understanding of that for which we are actually striving.
Yet, how much of our faith / gospel striving is for something clear and specific? It should be but
IS IT? A vague ‘wanting to go to Heaven’ (avoiding Hell at all costs and with a minimum time in Purgatory?) is not a specific striving but too often only a vague hope that – eventually – we will live happily with God-in-Christ. This is not taking hold of eternal life – and fighting the good fight.
If we take a quick look at
OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [AMOS 6: 1a. 4 – 7] we could easily surmise that the people being described by the by the prophet went (if living in Jerusalem) to the Temple regularly, offered their sacrifices and paid their tithes. If living outside Jerusalem all the local synagogue observances were faithfully executed. Certainly they did not recognise (as we all should) their personal need to be set free from those material things, ambitions, pleasures and occupations which imprison us. TODAY’S PSALM [146 or 145]tells us that it is “the Lord who sets prisoners free.” They did not recognise their self-imprisonment and so were unable to “grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” They did not see that they themselves were ruining what they had inherited from the God of their father Joseph when Moses had led them out of the prison (slavery) of Egypt. At that time the good fight had been fought and they had taken hold of the opportunity with which God had presented them.
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 16: 19 – 33] presents us, in the person of the unnamed rich man – as well as his five brothers – with a similar picture. They, too, had imprisoned themselves. However, our Gospel extract makes clear what we surmised about the folk described by Amos ….. the rich man and his brothers were all believers and would have attended Temple and synagogue, done all the rituals and said all the prayers. Abraham was seen as their father, they wanted to ‘go to Heaven’ but had lost the essential plot which included the need to “fight the good fight.”
Yet they had failed to recognise
exactly that to which they had been called.
What is of importance here is not so much that the rich man had failed, right there at his front gate, to recognise Lazarus but, rather, that he had not even noticed him. Those who concerned the prophet Amos had not “grieved over the ruin of Joseph” because they had not noticed it. What exactly were all these people actually fighting for …. what precisely had they taken hold of?
We need to become more aware of the real needs around us
. The needs of others yes but we also need to avoid blindness about our own personal faith and gospel needs. “Even if some one should rise from the dead” – we believe in the resurrection but do we believe its message?
It is the message of raising ourselves up to face not only the challenges of life and living but also the joys of it all ….. the joys of GOSPEL LIVING, of faith and of developing here on earth and in life a real taste for the life to come when we will see Christ face to face. This is what I must take hold of …. take hold of my present and existing life with and in Christ. Sometimes we talk about a life being ‘a hell on earth’ or ‘serving our purgatory now’.
If this is true in any way then why can we also not take hold of a little experience of heaven right here on earth