Capacity for Sanctity

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/09/29 at 12:00 AM

The west rose window of the magnificent cathedral of this city depicts the Last Judgment. Dating from the early 13th century, Christ is in the center sitting in judgment and displaying His 5 wounds – the price of our redemption. He is surrounded by the 4 Evangelists and angels as well. The 12 apostles can be seen on the right and left. We can also see scenes of the resurrection of the dead, St. Michael the Archangel weighing souls in his scales, the redeemed being led by an angel into Paradise – symbolized by the bosom of Abraham – while a demon leads the souls of the damned into hell.

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, too, that judgment is something we will all face, for: “no creature is concealed from Him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.” But for those of us who know and love our Lord, judgment is not something to dread. For while we may naturally and rightly fear the damnation our sins deserve, we know that God is merciful, and we hope in that mercy. So as we consider the Last Judgment that we’ve seen so magnificently spelled out for us in the stone and glass of the Cathedral of Chartres, we should seek to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead for us all.

In today’s Gospel we have the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The first requirement, Jesus tells us, is to follow the commandments. Of course implicit in this instruction is the requirement that we beg pardon for the times we break the commandments. Certainly if we wish to inherit eternal life, we must confess our sins and do our best to make reparation for them. Truly, the saints show us that the path to Heaven is always by means of confession and penance. If confession and penance are not part of your life on earth, do not expect Heaven to be a part of your life in eternity.

But there is more that Jesus tells the rich man. In addition to keeping the commandments, Jesus tells him he must sell his things, give to the poor, and follow Jesus. Note well how St. Mark tells us that Jesus speaks to the rich man with love: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” And indeed Jesus loves all souls. He more than sees the goodness in us all. Jesus sees the inestimable value of every human soul, made in His image and likeness.

While our Lord knows the capacity of the human soul for goodness, for sanctity, He also knows full well the obstacles that hold us down. Jesus knows well the sinful inclinations that enslave us. And we see this when the rich man walks away sad, unwilling to part with his many possessions. Jesus says: “how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!…Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

Why is it hard to enter the Kingdom of God? The simple answer is that we love ourselves more than we love God. In our sinfulness we seek to serve ourselves more than we serve God.

We must also understand that God created us for Himself. So it’s part of our human nature to long for him. But in our selfishness we often mistake this longing for something else, and we try to sate this longing with things of the earth. This breeds attachments to earthly things, much like we see in the rich man.

How do we get around this? How do we pass through the eye of the needle to enter the Kingdom of God? Like the author of our first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we must seek the gift of wisdom and the virtue of prudence, for it is wisdom and prudence that set us firmly on the path to God. Wisdom is the gift that helps us know that there’s more to life than this world can offer. And prudence is the virtue that helps us to choose always the virtuous action in every situation.

Wisdom and prudence together help us to realize that true wealth is to believe in God and to know His goodness, to hope in Heaven and His mercy without reserve, and to love our Lord above all else. Wisdom and prudence also help us remember that ultimately salvation is a free gift from our Lord. And while we participate in our redemption and will choose Heaven or hell by the way we live our earthly lives, it is God who saves us.

So while it is impossible for us to reach Heaven on our own, all things are possible for God. Our role is simply to give ourselves to Him, to trust in Him, to live for Him, and to serve Him. May our Lady of Chartres help us always so that we might be saved at the Last Judgment.


14 October 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
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