SUNDAY’S READINGS | July 31, 2022
These words from the prologue of St. John’s gospel encapsulate the whole gospel. “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). The mystery of the Incarnation, that is, the taking on of flesh by the eternal Son of the Father, confirms the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of human life, the importance of human bodies, and, because bodies are formed from the dust of the earth, the glorious goodness of the whole creation. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The entire saga of the Old and New Testaments affirms the vital importance of the lives we are living right now. Our obligation to offer a continual sacrifice of praise, which we are doing in the liturgy, and which is described “as our bounden duty and service,” pertains assuredly not only to explicitly religious acts but to the common tasks and obligations placed before us. Generally, if we are honest, we know what those duties are. Do we not all have some good work to walk in? Have we not been called to use the gifts of creation and fulfill our unique vocation? The Christian message says, “Use the world and love the world!”
And yet we can love the world wrongly, especially if we think of this world only and without reference to our transcendent source and the account we all must make before the great judgment seat of Christ. Jesus teaches and tells a story.
“‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is for those who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God’” (Luke 12:15-21).
We might say that working hard and storing up for many years in anticipation of retirement is an act of financial prudence. And in some respects, it is, but the fantasy at the end never delivers. We may eat, drink, and delight ourselves into a state of complete misery. Remember Hamlet on this point: “What is a man if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more” (Act 2, Scene 4). When our lives lose deep and abiding purpose, when we live as if there is no God, we may fall into the worst form of depravity, absolute nihilism. St. Paul gives a stark picture: “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed … anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” (Col. 3:5, 8). This is no way to live in the world. Rather, we clothe ourselves in Christ; we put on the mind of Christ. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. … Above all, clothe yourself with love” (Col. 3:12, 14). Life in Christ, a life of service, is a life worth living in this world and in the world to come.
Look It Up: Hosea 11:3
Think About It: We may set our minds on things above because “I, the Lord, took them up in my arms.”