Friday, October 20, and Monday, October 23, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 4:1-8; Luke 12:1-7)

The French philosopher Albert Camus made a hero out of the rogue mythological king Sisyphus.  In Camus’ story Sisyphus temporarily redeems humanity by putting Death itself in chains.  As a punishment for his deception, the gods assign Sisyphus the task of pushing a boulder up a mountain.  It is an arduous task, but the worst part is that when Sisyphus near the summit, the gods arrange that the boulder falls to the bottom.  Then Sisyphus must repeat the travail. 

Sisyphus’ fate is not unlike the dilemma of humans without Christ.  Try as they might, humans on their own could never be justified before God.  The Law pointed them in the right direction, but proved to be more than any person on his or her own could fulfill.  St. Paul tells us today that justification comes by faith as it did in the case of Abraham.  In the coming days we will hear Paul proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection as the definitive content of faith.  To be justified, Paul will say, we must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.

The news of justification through faith is too grand for a grim realist like Albert Camus to bear.  Camus thought that the best humans could do is to achieve integrity and, perhaps, an esprit de corps in carrying on the daily struggle of life until death.  But we Christians dare to hope for more because of the testimony of those like Paul.  He encountered the risen Jesus who changed his life and sent him to proclaim the message of eternal life.

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 4:20-25; Luke 12:13-21)

The Church of the early late fifteenth and early sixteenth century suffered from having too much wealth.  The popes acted more like princes than prophets.  Monks and religious hardly gave witness to the poverty of Jesus.  Sometimes, indeed, they had personal servants.  Understanding the incongruity of such comfort with religious profession, saints like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross began the reform the Carmelite Order.  They might have taken their cues from today’s gospel.

In the passage Jesus refuses to get involved in a family dispute over inheritance.  It is not that he wants to ignore real-life tensions.  Rather, he wants to testify that God, not material resources, brings salvation.  He calls the farmer in the parable a “fool” for not recognizing that the future is more in God’s hands than in his own.

Certainly we are challenged to live our faith in this time of abundance.  Everyday there are more “necessities” to obtain and “upgrades” to purchase.  We must not allow ourselves to be led astray by these ruses.  Rather, let us learn that the best we can do with material superfluity is to share it with the needy.