Recently I had a visit from Br Martin McGough (whom I introduced to SOLT back in the early 2000s) and his mother Monica. Here is a photo of Br Martin and myself taken yesterday evening in the chapel plus other images from Monica.
Here is my homily for this weekend followed by the gospel.
Once upon a time there was a man who died and went up to the pearly gates. He met St Peter who said “Stand over here ‘til I check to see that your name is in the Book of Life [where the names of the saved are registered].” The man with no little anxiety waited while St Peter went looking through the Book. After a considerable time and towards the end of the Book, St Peter looked up and said “Yes, I found you. Please come in.” The gates opened and the man overjoyed, walked through.
On the other side he was met by an angel who said he would bring him to his destination. They walked down a beautiful boulevard, paved with gold and with trees and green lawn on each side. Soon they came to an enormous mansion of the same grandeur as Buckingham Palace. The man recognised Mary and Joseph on one of the balconies. Further on he saw a group of 13 mansions, slightly smaller and not unlike Aras an Uachtarain, the residence of the Irish President. These were the residences of the 12 Apostles and of course the thirteenth, St Paul. Further on he saw another great quantity of mansions, again somewhat smaller, like the local 5 star Lough Eske hotel. These were occupied by such saints as St Mary Magdalen, St Francis of Assisi, St Patrick, St Anthony, St Bridget, St Columbcille, Padre Pio, etc. As they moved along the houses became smaller and less grand but still very attractive. Eventually they moved through a region of housing estates followed by a larger region of apartment blocks.
After this they moved out into the countryside which eventually led into woodland. When they passed out of the woodland they were in a massive tent city which spread out further than the eye could see in all directions. Distributed throughout this tent city were dining halls and shower / toilet cubicles. The man was led by the angel to a tent, nice – roomy and of good construction – who said “This will be your home.”
The man was shocked and upset in equal measure: “What do you mean?! I never did anything wrong in my whole life. I always kept the Commandments; I believed in Jesus; I never killed or harmed anybody; I never committed adultery or any other impurity; I rarely told lies; I never stole; I never consulted fortune tellers or took God’s name in vain. Why am I not in one of those mansions we saw earlier or even in one of the apartments?”
The angel replied: “True, you never did much that was bad but you never did much that was good either. You did the minimum required as a Christian but never exerted yourself for the love of God or neighbour. It is the good that you do on earth and give to God that determines your treasure in heaven. This tent represents what you offered to God throughout your life.”
This man I’ve been describing is like the man in today’s gospel who kept the rules, didn’t do anything wrong but is attached to his wealth and isn’t very generous.
It really is a gift from Jesus that our good deeds on earth can be offered to him so that it will truly benefit us for eternity. Charity begins at home. We have many opportunities to practice generosity to children and parents in their time of need. After that there is the poor in our own locality and further away. In this way we can grow our tent to a mansion over a lifetime. We need to constantly remember that all our resources – health, money and possessions – in the first place are gifts from God. When we offer back to God the fruits of our lives, we are acknowledging him as the source of all our blessings.
What good will our wealth be when die? So much better to have invested it in the heavenly treasury!
We are free to practice generosity to the poor in any way that we see fit. My favourite charities are the foreign missions; the pro-life movement who are advocates for unwanted babies who have lost their right to life; and the groups fighting crippling poverty in the third world.
In summary: We can all accumulate treasure in heaven by living generous lives and particularly by giving to the poor and needy.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 10:17-30
Go and sell everything you own and follow me.
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them, ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’
The Gospel of the Lord.