By Deacon Jerry Franzen February 27, 2011 Cathedral
Isaiah 29: 14-15 1 Corinthians 4: 1 - 5 Matthew 6: 24-346
There was once a rich man who knew he was about to die.
He had worked hard,
but he rarely thought about eternal life and Christ's Kingdom.
All he remembered from childhood religion classes was
that there was fire in hell and streets paved with gold in heaven.
He had accepted the fact that he was going to die,
but he didn't like the idea of leaving behind
all his hard-earned wealth.
So he converted all his assets into gold bars,
put them in a big bag on his bed,
and lay down on top of it to die.
He had decided that maybe if it was so close to him when he died,
it might just have a chance of going along.
Soon afterwards, he breathed his last.
When he woke up,
he was at the gate of Heaven, bag in hand.
Saint Peter met him and with a concerned look on his face said,
"Well, I see you actually managed to get here
with something from earth!
But unfortunately, you can't bring in that bag.
Remember, you can’t take it with you."
"Oh please, sir," said the man.
"I must have it. It means everything to me."
"Sorry, my friend," said Saint Peter.
"If you want to keep that bag,
then I'm afraid you'll have to go to, you know, the other place.
You don't want to go there, believe me."
"Well, I won't part with this bag."
"Have it your way," returned Peter.
"But before you go, would you mind if I looked in the bag
to see what it is that you're willing to trade eternal life for?"
"Sure," said the man. "You'll see. I could never part with this."
Saint Peter looked in the bag and then, astonished,
said to the man, "You're willing to go to hell for...pavement?”
Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah
tells us of God’s love for the Israelites,
who were in exile in Babylon as slaves to the pagans .
Their lives were miserable.
They were sure that God had forsaken them,
that he had totally forgotten them.
Isaiah was telling them that God had not forsaken them,
that he loved them.
He used the image of the most powerful force of love,
that of a mother’s love for her child,
to describe God’s love for his people.
“Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child in her womb?”
Isaiah likened God’s people to children in God’s womb.
“Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
The message is that
God’s love is more powerful that a mother’s love for her child.
The second reading and the Gospel reading give some direction
on how God’s people should respond to God’s love.
St. Paul told the Corinthians
that they should be trustworthy servants.
Being a trustworthy servant meant that
they were not to be concerned about how others judged them,
only about how God would judge them.
They were not to be swayed in their behavior by how others,
might look upon them and ridicule their practices.
They were to be concerned only about how God would judge them,
because only God knew the whole picture
of the circumstances and motives
that controlled their actions as God’s servants.
In this passage St. Paul focused on what they should not do;
they should not be swayed
from their faithfulness as Christians
or worry what the non-Christians might think of their actions.
In the Gospel, we heard more of the same, not to worry.
Don’t focus on the things of the world.
But Jesus also gives his followers the positive side:
He told them what they should be doing:
they were to “Seek first the kingdom of God
and his righteousness”,
and, while they are doing that,
all things will be given to them.
God loves us also as his chosen people.
He will never forget us or forsake us.
Our lives must be built on our trust that God will always love us,
truly as a mother loves her child, for we are God’s children.
Our trust in God must be coupled with our own trustworthiness,
that God knows that he can trust us.
It’s a covenant.
Our response to God’s love should be the same
as Paul prescribed for the Corinthians –
be trustworthy servants
not worrying about how others judge us,
but only being concerned about how God judges us.
We as followers of Jesus cannot serve two masters,
both God and the world.
God must know
that He can count on us to be focused on the kingdom.
There are three aspects of our seeking the kingdom
that I would like to explore with you.
1. Seeking to be a trustworthy servant
and to become a member of the kingdom
means obeying God's commandments.
We usually think about the commandments on
stealing, killing, lying, adultery.
They are important.
We may often forget the one about keeping holy the Lord’s Day.
We may be prone to take it for granted.
Sure we all “go to church.”
If Christ is our King, and we are seeking his kingdom,
giving one day of the week to Him isn’t much.
Sunday Mass is the closest we can come
to the kingdom here on earth.
In giving us the Mass, God has shown his love for us.
Not only did He send his only Son to suffer, die and rise
for ous sins,
but he also continues to provide the same sacrificial act,
again and again at each Mass.
Our active participation at Sunday Mass is one way to show
that we truly are God’s trustworthy servants.
In what better way can we be seeking the kingdom?
2. Seeking Christ's Kingdom also means constantly striving
to get know Jesus Christ better and better
through prayer and Christian meditation.
Jesus is a unique King, because he longs for his subjects' friendship.
He wants to be part of our lives, to walk with us.
As Pope Benedict told the youth in New York in 2008,
"What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship
with God in Jesus Christ.
That relationship is expressed in prayer."
Is not the Mass the greatest Prayer?
It’s the prayer by which we learn more about Jesus,
through the readings from Sacred Scripture ,
through the homily and
through receiving him into ourselves.
What better time can we have each week
to get to know more fully our King and his kingdom?
3. Those who truly seek the kingdom of God
will want to help others to seek that same gift.
We need to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities
to help bring others closer to God.
This isn't as hard as we may think.
All we have to do is remember
that God is the real source of happiness.
Since we want those around us to find the path to happiness,
it will be natural to work positively
to bring those around us closer to God.
We do this for each other at Sunday Mass.
When we gather for Mass,
it is not just about our individual salvation,
it is about our salvation as a community,
a community of people all seeking the same end,
the kingdom of God.
Our salvation, our reaching the final end of God’s kingdom,
is something we must work on continually.
We must come together every week to do our part for ourselves,
and for others in the community.
This working together, bringing each other to the kingdom,
is considered so important for our salvation,
both individually and collectively
that the Church considers it a grave sin,
if we choose to skip the celebration of Sunday Mass
without a good reason.
We must actively be here in the pew each Sunday,
because it is vital to our salvation and to that of others
in the community of believers.
None of us can do it alone.
I recently heard it said
that we can manage to get to hell all on our own,
but we all need help to get to heaven, the kingdom.
So leave behind whatever bags of whatever your “gold” might be.
It might be wealth as in the introductory story.
It might be fame and accomplishments that are your kingdom.
It might be pleasure that rules you.
It might be power and authority that governs your actions.
Yes, in that introductory story,
the streets in the kingdom were paved with gold,
BUT the road to hell is very smoothly paved
with the desires for wealth, fame, pleasure and power,
the kingdom of this world.
Today Jesus will renew his commitment of love for us
in the sacrifice of his Son at this Mass.
When we receive him in Holy Communion,
may we renew our commitment to him
as trustworthy servants,
and promise to make a special effort this week
and every week to seek his Kingdom first,
by beginning each week with our participation
in the celebration of Mass.