Jesus uses strong words today in his parable to issue a wake-up call call to his audience, a wake-up call that we all today still need to hear, reminding us that this world and this life is not what it’s all about.
In this life, everything is about something else: ultimately, heaven. And because this is true, we have to be as Christ says today, “rich in what matters to God.”
When I ride my bike through narrow paths, I get nervous. If I have to cross a street or turn a corner, I’d like to be able to see what is or isn’t coming down that street or around that corner! Otherwise, I’m hitting the brakes and creeping. The same goes for driving a car. In life, we need that perspective, we need to be able to see the big picture. That is what the author of our first reading, Qoheleth, had: a big perspective. People would come to this wise figure for advice on the deepest mysteries of life, and he helped them remember the big picture.
In our world, one of the big “blind spots” of our society is death. We pretend we are going to live forever. There is also a tendency to sugar-coat death and anything associated with it (such as illness) so that it is re-defined: instead of funerals we celebrate their life – as if it is wrong to hurt. No, it is wrong to lie about death, which is really a part of life: “This very night your life will be demanded of you.”
As a priest, I can’t hide from this. Not just the occasional funeral, but every night I pray the dying words of Jesus: “Father, Into Your Hands I commend my spirit.” Going to bed is like a little preparation for death.
The life of a Christian is already forfeit. The only way to keep it is to lose it. It is like when you are surrounded by foes: if you want to survive, you have to frantically put your life in danger. It is like jumping out of a burning building: the only way to survive is to go straight into a new danger.
This idea made me read a poem I had heard of but never really read. It is one of the greatest Spanish poems of all time, written by Saint Teresa of Avila, or her religious name Teresa of Jesus. The poem repeats the line: muero porque no muero, I die because I do not die. Primarily referring to her desire for heaven to be with God, this phrase has a double meaning for me. If we do not die to ourselves and become more united to Christ, we lose ourselves.
In Christ, death is transformed. It is redefined. We don’t need to be afraid of it, because if we are living out our baptism, we have already tasted it. Buried with Christ, we rose with Him, and we are in this Mass already on the other side of death.
Let us pray that with our Living Savior we can be rich in what matters to God, we can keep the big picture in mind, and we can daily die to ourselves so as to live in Christ.