Well, because we were in lockdown, we were unable to go to our parishes on the weekends. And as a result, most of us had no real practical insights, so we resisted writing those papers. Now, the truth is that anything we might have submitted would have been acceptable, even a few sentences. But I was stubborn and kept putting it off, and putting it off, until it was too late, and that class became the only blemish on my record at Mount Angel. It sticks out like a sore thumb because it represents the only C grade I ever got in seminary. I think the only reason I didn't fail that class was because they knew that that would be unjust because we were in lockdown and did not have the opportunity to get away in order to do the paper in the first place. Nevertheless, it's a blemish on my record, I’m not proud of it, and there's nothing I can do about it now.
In our gospel today Jesus is telling us that we are accountable - responsible and accountable - to God for what we do in this life. But he starts his talk today with this little gem of advice: Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your father is pleased to give you the Kingdom. Actually, this translation is pretty weak; the original Greek that Luke wrote in sounds more like this: the father has determined to give you the Kingdom. Jesus is telling us that God really desires, and in the strongest terms, to give us, his people, the absolute best he can offer us. We are to take that as an absolute given, that it's ours for the asking. And he goes on to say that any impediment, any blockage of that gift to us, will come entirely from us, God wants us to have that gift and he’ll give it to us unless we don’t want it. He advises us that putting things off, procrastinating like I did with that paper at Mt. Angel, will not serve us well, and that in the end, when he comes for us, it will be best for us that he should find us doing our work and not constantly relaxing and eating and drinking and being merry like the greedy rich man we heard about in last week's gospel. He's clear about that, we do that kind of thing, and we risk not having a place in the Kingdom that God has promised us.
So, we need to be watchful and prepared, and that means we have to live in a consistently moral and obedient way, and we should always be ready to give an account to God of how we have lived. Jesus is saying that our true destiny is not here on this earth, we're just passing through, and today he says that the best thing we can do with our wealth, with the blessings we have been given, is to share with the poor and those less fortunate. And these kinds of actions become, or are converted into, a kind of heavenly credit, treasure in heaven, and this treasure will survive the barrier of death.
In other words, we are accountable - responsible and accountable - for the welfare of others, and especially for the poor and disadvantaged. And, we are accountable to God. I should add that this responsibility to God does not stand in opposition to our understanding that God has determined to give us the Kingdom. Jesus is not telling us a pie-in-the-sky tale, but he is confirming that God is very, very, generous.
So what does that mean in practical terms?
Well, first of all, we have to understand that the true Christian is one who holds a great desire within to be with God and with our brothers and sisters who are or will be with him as well. And the truly poor are those who have no desire for God, no desire to move forward, toward Jesus, and our ultimate encounter with him who is our true life, joy, and happiness.
The next thing is this. There are a couple of questions you can ask yourself from time to time as a kind of self-evaluation: 1) Do I have a heart that is genuine and burning with a desire for God? Do I sometimes fake it? We can sometimes fool ourselves to appear pious when our hearts are really anchored somewhere else. 2) Ask yourself: where is my treasure: what is it that I truly desire? What attracts my heart? Is it God and doing good for others, to live for God and my brothers and sisters?
Finally, to tie all this together, I have another recommendation, and that would be receiving the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis because of what it can do for you. We all fail at times, and confession, or reconciliation, in the light of today's gospel does two things for us. It can become something of a dress rehearsal for the day when we will all be called to an accounting. And the grace that comes with the sacrament will ideally help us to improve from our failures. But it also can wipe away those failures, and if confessed properly, God will no longer hold us to account for those failures.
One more final point for you. Earlier I had mentioned God’s overwhelming generosity. I want to stress that while we are called to a high level of engagement with God’s will for us, his mercy and grace far exceed any of our efforts and response to that, and Jesus is telling us that as well today. So, remember that, and know that sometimes our effort should consist solely and simply in receiving God’s generous gift of himself. It can be very freeing just letting go and turning yourself over to the loving embrace of God.