Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sisters and Brothers, Beloved Children of God!
Today, listening to the readings, we may heard that Jesus doesn’t like rich people.
In a number of Gospel stories men of means have debated Jesus and have become “parabled”, that is to say, became a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. The rich man for example in today’s gospel.
What exactly is the danger of being rich?
In the first reading from the book of Amos…
Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock
War was brewing but because of their own earthly pride they thought and felt they were untouchable. Nothing concerned them but the present age. Their outlook, priority and universe… was only focused on themselves.
Why plan for what’s next.
Then in the familiar gospel of today of the rich man dressed in fine linen and purple garments…
who dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
We are not told how the man became rich. Paraphrasing a Shakespeare quote…
“some are born rich, some achieve riches, and some have riches thrust upon them.”
So it must not matter.
But if we think Jesus doesn’t like rich people… we couldn’t be more wrong.
Many wealth men and women in the bible helped Jesus, his followers and his ministry.
August 31st is the feast of two very wealthy, powerful and learned men,
Saints JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA AND NICODEMUS, DISCIPLES OF THE LORD
It’s hard enough for ordinary, simple people to open their hearts to a God who often reveals himself in unexpected, disconcerting ways. Often, it’s even harder for the learned who are esteemed as teachers of their people. It’s tempting to think that once we’ve studied and taught enough, we know it all, even about God. But, as we discover in two men who appear in the Gospels together at Jesus’ tomb, nothing is impossible for God.
Joseph of Arimathea
The Gospels describe Joseph of Arimathea as “a rich man” (Mt 27:57); a “respected member of the council,” or Sanhedrin (Mk 15:43), the governing body of the Jewish people that would have been the legal and religious reference point for the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and as a “good and righteous man” (Lk 23:50). Joseph was the owner of the freshly hewn tomb that Jesus was laid in. Remember…“He was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly” (Jn 19:38); after all, Jesus was a controversial rabbi who disturbed the religious sensibilities of many of Joseph’s colleagues in the Sanhedrin.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee – the party of the strict observers and teachers of the Jewish law – who grants us deeper insight into the drama that unfolded in the lives of both these learned Israelites.
Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John describes “a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews,” coming to Jesus under the cover of night, drawn to him and yet fearful that this small movement or change of his heart might be noticed.
The teacher of the Law tells the Lord what he realizes and says “Master, we know that you are a teacher come from God.” But Jesus points out that this is not yet true knowledge: “Unless one is born anew, one cannot see the kingdom of God.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” asks the learned man, taken aback. Jesus, too, marvels: “Are you a teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?”
That there is a kind of knowledge that does not come from studying, that one can only receive like a child, welcoming the gift of God’s love? Nicodemus left that night with something in his heart like a crack in his great edifice of learning, we would call it a conversion but it was a fissure of light.
Both men ponder, reflect and contemplate on the Lord’s words and deeds…
until that small fissure in that hard heart becomes a wider opening.
Their eyes begin to open and see what is happening, as the web of malice and hate that surrounds Jesus is woven thicker by all the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees,
In their secretiveness of the care, respect and love they have for Jesus
gives them strength to make small acts of courage.
The Pharisees debate what to do with this Jesus, whom they cannot stand, because of the hardness and darkness of their hearts
Alone Nicodemus asks in the Lord’s defense, “Does our law judge a man before giving him a hearing?” (Jn 7:51), earning the derision of all the Sanhedrin.
Finally, the events themselves provide the catalyst. They act on the love of God and their total dependence on him. His Grace makes those small fissures in their hearts open into a flood of light.
As we know Jesus is crucified, his heart is opened with a spear, and Joseph of Arimathea no longer cares if people find out that he is a disciple. God’s love is more important than his reputation and status.
Or anything else.
He goes to Pilate and asks for the body of the condemned man, so that he might give it a proper burial.
He even knows where, the tomb he had bought for himself: “After this, Joseph of Arimathea … asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus…. Nicodemus also … came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight.” These powerful & wealthy men anoint the King of Israel.
These two men using their own hands gently wrap in clean linen the greatest visitation of God their people had ever known.
Together, “they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices,” and laid it in Joseph’s newly hewn tomb (Jn 19:38-42).
Both men had once been afraid to confess that they were disciples, they valued their earthly position to be most important.
But in this labor of love, their actions confess more than words ever could. Their hearts have broken open with the light and dependence of God.
These learned teachers of Israel have become like children born anew. Silently, they anoint, shroud, bury and bless the body of the Son of God, from whom, for them and us and for the world, a new kind of life knowledge and Way has come.
They underscore the teaching from last week from Luke 16:10-13
One cannot serve God and Mammon.
There is a very similar verse in in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?
Joseph and Nicodemus invited God deep into their lives, to the point that all else became secondary.
They lived as men of God to who St Paul speak to in the epistle
pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called
when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.
WE, you and I, make a noble profession of our faith each time we come to Mass.
Are we praying or asking for God to come deeper into our lives with only our lips?
or are we asking like our lives depend on it.
He is our rock, our foundation, our Father
All the saints, men, women, rich, poor, young. old, wealthy or poor and so on.
Were and are completely dependent on God as we are
AS we come up for the Eucharist let us keep in our mind what type of Father we have
From today’s responsorial…
A Father who keeps faith forever,
A Father who secures justice for the oppressed,
A Father who gives food to the hungry.
A Father who sets captives free.
A Father who gives sight to the blind;
A Father who raises up those who were bowed down.
A Father who loves the just;
A Father who protects strangers.
A Father who The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
A Father who shall reign forever; through all generations.
A Father who gave up his only Son for the Salvation of the world
About: Deacon James Parrilli was ordained 11 years ago. We went through formation together and we were ordained together. He works in ministry full time.