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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Losing is Finding. Giving is Receiving. Dying is Living

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 2, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

A lady lost her handbag in the busy shopping

mall. Fortunately, an honest little boy found it and promptly returned it to her. The lady was truly delighted and quickly examined her bag. She was astonished. “Hmm! What happened here? I know there was a $100 bill in it. Now there are ten $10 bills.” The boy quickly replied, “That’s right, ma’am! I learned the lesson. The last time I found a lady’s bag, I didn’t receive any reward. She didn’t have any loose change.”

People work best when they know there is reward. Employees work harder when there is raise in salary and benefits. The most wanted fugitive can be captured in no time when a large amount of reward is offered. Hence, preachers of the Prosperity Gospel effectively attract followers by constantly harping on the Gospel passage: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap” (Lk 6:38).

Certainly, God is not some stingy benefactor. As St. Paul assured the Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32).

He always offers reward to every good deed. That’s for sure. Jesus himself said so: “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

But we are surely missing the point when we do something good solely for reward. On his desk in the Oval Office, President Reagan kept a small plaque with the words: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.”

As St. Francis of Assisi pointed out in his Prayer of Peace, “It is in giving that we receive; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Giving and doing something good, no matter how insignificant it may be, even a cup of cold water, is in itself our reward, for, as we always say, “God can never be outdone in generosity.”

Nevertheless, Jesus gives an important caveat: a reward comes at a great cost. The Gospel this Sunday, therefore, lays down the most fundamental condition for discipleship: giving up everything and carrying our cross for sake of Christ and the Gospel.

A catechist was teaching her five and six-year old children about the 10 Commandments. After she finished explaining to them the commandment to ‘Honor thy father and thy mother,’ she asked, ‘How about your brothers and sisters? What is the commandment that teaches you how to treat them?’ Quickly, one little boy quipped, ‘Thou shall not kill!’

Honoring and loving our earthly parents, our brothers and sisters, and our loved ones is truly laudable, and it is, in fact, commanded by God. Yet, no matter how important it is, it cannot override the greatest commandment of all, that is, to “love the Lord, your God, with
all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”
(Mt 22:37-38). Everything else takes the backseat: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).

Interestingly, when we love God first and foremost in our life, our earthly loves are purified and enriched. The reason is simple: by loving God, the limits and obstacles brought about by our selfishness are surmounted, enabling our heart to expand and love all the more. Far from being downgraded, our earthly loves are fully enhanced and further dignified when the love of God takes precedence and supreme priority in our life.

Hence, losing is finding: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39). Giving is receiving: “Give and gifts will be given to you.” (Lk 6:38); “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Dying is living: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
St. Teresa of Calcutta hit the nail on the head when she said, “When you don’t have anything, then you have everything.” That is precisely how the dynamics of divine economics works. God’s graces unceasingly flow in abundance. Thus, holding on to
something makes us incapable of receiving more. Letting go, frees us from worldly attachments, and enables us to receive more. Carl Jung puts it this way, “Don’t hold on to someone who’s leaving, otherwise you won’t meet the one who’s coming.”

I believe everybody wants to follow Christ. Most certainly because of the promise of eternal reward in His heavenly kingdom. Yet, many of us cannot do so because of our attachment to creatures. 

There is nothing wrong with creatures. What is wrong is attachment to them. It is like holding on to grass while falling down the cliff. All these are just creatures, limited and ephemeral. We hold on, rather, to the Creator, the source of everything. Letting go of a pail of water in order to prime the pump and have more abundant supply of water is truly wise. 
Let me close with a quotation for an unknown author: “There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

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