Dear brothers and sisters, have a good month!
We are carrying on in November with studying the Word of God, as It is expressed through revelations, teachings and deeds within the Gospel. The Word of God is not something abstract. It is not the word with “w” small, that is, what we utter; rather, it is the Word with “W” capital, the second person of the Holy Trinity-our God, the God + Man Jesus Christ, Whose words and deeds we study, in order to meet and imitate Him. We, thus, open this month the Gospel once again, to “fish”, like His fishermen disciples, things from the four November Sunday readings, and see what they say to us and how they correlate.
It was written in last month’s message of ours, that October’s first and last gospel readings underline the certainty of Resurrection: both of the earth in spring and of humankind in the Eternal Spring after Jesus’ second coming on the Earth. Remember that the first Sunday of October reading dealt with the resurrection of the only son of a widow at Nain, whereas that of the last Sunday with the resurrection of the only daughter of the archpriest Iairos. This way, farmers of an era as back as 4th century AD were taking heart that the approaching winter will for sure give way to spring six months later.
Surviving winter, those times, was not depending on fridges and supermarkets. Thus, people had to get prepared depending on what they had reaped from their lands in the summer. They had to stack up food for themselves and their domestic animals and cattle. They had to set up a “budget” of needs and quantities which would suffice until they would, again, reap what they had sowed.
This was a procedure generating stress; but pride at the same time (“Look what my cellar is full of!”); then comparison (“Look at the neighbour’s cellar! He will surely starve!”); then arrogance and a petrified heart (“It’s himself to blame! He was lazy! I don’t care about him at all!”); then oblivion of God and His benevolence (“The crop I reaped it was totally my achievement!”); then self-centeredness as for the management of the cellar to forget he had forgotten God and neighbour (“My cellar is full of goodies. I will eat, drink, and give nobody!”); finally soul darkening as the God of Love and every brother was absent from it!
Let us see, therefore, how Church preached and preaches us all in November on the management of wealth by the four Sunday readings of the month, ie, three parables and Jesus’ conversation with a lord.
1. The 1st November Sunday reading deals with the parable of a wealthy man and the poor Lazarus, so that things get straight from the beginning, so that we learn, without doublespeak, how wealth management upon Earth is assessed in Heavenly eternity.
Lazarus was poor. Despite his poverty, sickness and people’s heartlessness, he did not blaspheme, complain, hate. This is why, when he died, his soul rested within patriarch Abraham’s bosom, foretasting the goods of the Kingdom of God, that is, the eternal communion with the God of Love. For, already from Earth, he aspired and practiced Love, being patient to the end, like Jesus upon the Cross.
The wealthy man died too, and they built for him a grandiose tomb. Nevertheless, his soul was not rested within Abraham’s bosom but incarcerated in the depths of Hades; the pitch black spiritual place where God is absent. God is, of course, ubiquitous. Nevertheless, He is unable to “conquer” our life, to be a part of it, if we do not open for Him the door. Thus, the wealthy man’s life on Earth, a darkness masked by gorgeous banquets and unreasonable entertainment, was succeeded by an identical darkness of eternal self-isolation. He hadn’t shared anything upon Earth-he shared nothing within Hades. Alas, no possibility for change or relief anymore! That had been his choice! And Abraham, with whom, he had a conversation, reminded him of it.
For he, daily, met at his doorstep someone to remind him of what “other”, “brother”, “neighbour” meant. But he wouldn’t understand. The circle of his beloved only included his family, his five brothers. That is why he pleaded Abraham to allow Lazarus rise from the dead and go and warn his brothers of their Hades future unless they changed their life. But how could a resurrection (even Jesus’, let alone a poor Lazarus’) make the difference among people immersed in their selves, thus, resistant to believe in the prophetic and evangelical Word of God, encapsulated in Resurrection and Eternal Life?
Moral: wealth by itself is not a bad thing. It is its management that makes the difference. And it either sends us at God’s bosom or isolates us within ourselves-forever.
2. The 2nd November Sunday reading deals with the parable of the Good Samaritan, so that everyone is given a clear answer about who can be the “poor Lazarus” at their doorstep.
The answer is given after an inquiry a Jewish Lawyer submits to Jesus concerning him inheriting eternal life. Attention! He does not ask for all-only for himself! He does not consider eternal life a God’s gift, but a hereditary right, for he is too an Abraham’s descendant! And as a Lawyer, an expert of the Mosaic Law, after prompted by Jesus, gives the right answer: to inherit eternal life you have to equally love GOD, SELF, NEIGHBOUR. He has been good at the first two parts of the equation; but he pretends that he does not understand about the third, the NEIGHBOUR.
This is why Jesus narrates him the parable of the Good Samaritan, so that he learns that anyone can be your NEIGHBOUR: an enemy, a fallen, a robbed, a wounded, a half-dead. Whom, do we debase, despise or pass by not, but whom we empathize, nurse, lose our time, change our plans, upset our daily routine, spend time and money for, then we will have practiced Love. For, this way, we will have managed our wealth, material and spiritual, in favour of an “other”, a “neighbour”, a “poor Lazarus”.
This way, too, we will imitate Jesus Himself, the parable’s Good Samaritan, who found us lying half-dead (mortal body-immortal soul), took us upon Himself (by becoming incarnate), and, after His Ascension, brought us to the Inn-Keeper, namely the God-Father, as He sat at the right of His Father as both a God and, now, an Immortal Man, and, in doing so, He opened for us all the path for our return to Heaven.
3. The 3rd November Sunday reading deals with the parable of the unwise rich, so that we are all given again a clear picture on the consequences of the bad management of wealth.
The already rich man of the parable got even richer, as, that year, his crop was much bigger than ever. But, instead of thinking how he would distribute the surplus to the farmers of his lands, or his mansion’s servants, or the town’s poor, he planned how to secure it ONLY for HIMSELF by pulling down the old and building up new warehouses; so that he would have enough to eat, drink, rest, have a good time altogether. He and himself alone! He planned but didn’t realize. Because, that very night, the demons of avarice and egoism, to whom he had handed his soul, demanded it forever, to be incarcerated with them into Hades. Just like what happened with the wealthy man of the 1st Sunday’s reading.
Conclusion: God gives at plenty to everyone, even to those who don’t know or care about Him. Just in case, they will-by example-start to really love Him and their “neighbours”, and, in doing so, come out from the reclusive terrain of the “self” and see life, both on Earth and beyond, as the real target. Unfortunately, it is very few who do that. It is the following Sunday’s reading that reveals “why”.
4. The 4th November Sunday reading focuses on a rich and the quest for eternal life, so that we all understand the deeper causes for the self-centeredness as for managing wealth.
This time there is a lord who, likewise the Lawyer of the 2nd Sunday’s reading, seeks to know what to do to inherit eternal life. Again, he asks for himself-only. Again, he regards eternal life a hereditary right-not a God’s gift! And although he has observed the basic commandments of the Mosaic Law, he has done so with his mind-not with his heart! Yes, he is clean from gross sins, but his heart is not a place where God rests! For, what stands for him as the most important life value, is not how to imitate God, but how to keep his wealth.
Thus, when prompted by Jesus to pass from the “image” to “imitation” (that is, to completely imitate God) by a) selling all of his possessions, b) distributing the outcome to the poor, c) acquiring a real treasure = a “face” of God imitated, and, d) becoming a disciple of His, he is deeply saddened and leaves.
Jesus, then, exclaims: “How difficult is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” As an omniscient God He knows that His teaching and Himself do not find space within their hearts. The rich observe the “easy” commandments of His Law out of formalism or social respectability, nonetheless, the idol of devilish avarice and self-centredness is well cemented within, thus, leaving no space for any “poor Lazarus” or “neighbour”. Rich people’s adhesion to their wealth and the identification of their happiness with it brings to them a spiritual suffocation, for it deprives them from the experience of the “oxygen” of God’s Love. Nevertheless, there is for them, as for everybody, hope, as, “the things that are impossible with people are possible with God” – and this is the final line of the reading.
There is a F.G. Lorca’s poem, a Greek song of 45 years ago, saying “when full moon rises/ a sobbing comes out of pockets/ full of hundreds of same faces/ that is, silver coins”. What is the meaning of these lines perfectly fitting with the aforementioned?
First, that wealth in comparison with God who grants it is like a dwarf before a giant! Second, that wealth, moulding within the chests of the “self”, laments, like a human, as its main purpose (= to get circulated, to be used for good purposes), does not materialize. Third, that for someone to make the difference and not get caught onto the claws of the avarice and self-centeredness demons and perish with them forever into the darkness of Hades, they should be lit by the “Sun” of God’s Love (like Moon is lit by the Sun) and reflect It as practised love to every “poor Lazarus” and “neighbour”. This way, all silver coins (=God’s gifts) kept, hitherto, into chests and pockets, will acquire a “full name”, for they will have been handed to people in need, becoming, thus, these people’s property.
Otherwise, like another Greek song has it, “one will have sold his/her soul for a fire (=Hades), one will have sold his/her soul for a deception (=the idol of the demon of avarice)”.
Let us, therefore, dear brothers and sisters, accumulate the wealth that matters by giving, and not becoming eternally poor by accumulating for ourselves only. Amen!