Alleluia: God is God; We Are Not

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2022

Today’s Readings:

Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich
So that by his poverty you might become rich.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings confront us with a few spiritual cautions.

In our first reading, Ezekiel lets the Prince of Tyre know that he has really messed up his spiritual life:

Thus says the Lord GOD:

Because you are haughty of heart,
you say, “A god am I!
I occupy a godly throne
in the heart of the sea!”—
And yet you are a man, and not a god,
however you may think yourself like a god.

This Tyrian prince Ithobalus reigned over a wealthy and politically powerful nation – a nation which had become arrogant and domineering in its relationship to other peoples. The word Ezekiel uses describes the condition perfectly: haughty. The prince was so haughty that he considered himself equal to — and in no need of — God.

We, of course, can learn a lesson from vainglorious Ithobalus. No material possession or personal strength makes us equal to God or renders us independent of God’s governance and care. According to Ezekiel, old Itho was about to find that out the hard way!

In our Gospel, Jesus talks about how we can get caught up in ourselves similarly to Ithobaal.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

When we read this passage, I think most of us picture material riches. And certainly the saying holds true in that case. But it also holds true for other types of “riches” – strengths or possessions that we use in arrogance and indifference toward others’ needs.

Prose: Pope Francis preached about such things in a homily on this passage from the prophet Amos:

Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory! . They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles. (Am 6:1,4)

How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!

Pope Francis – September 29, 2013

Music: Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring – J.S. Bach, interpreted by Daniel Kobialka

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s