October 14, 2018: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Associate Pastor’s Corner
Two years ago, when I was giving the Called & Gifted Workshop in Hong Kong, a young man raised his hand and asked, “I know this is a little peripheral, but what is your opinion of the Prosperity Gospel?”
Now, if you had ever attended the Called & Gifted Workshop, you likely would wonder where this question came from as well, but there you go. Peripheral, indeed.
My reaction was, “There is no Resurrection without the Passion, so…yeah. No, not a fan.”
Very much like the Rich Young Man, he didn’t like my response, but…shrug. What do you do?
In today’s Gospel, Saint Peter asks what he and the others get out of Jesus. “We have given up everything and followed you.” And how does Jesus respond? “You will receive a hundred times more now in this present age.” You will receive houses, and family, and land now…and by the way, persecutions and eternal life. What do you get, Peter? You get everything.
However, those brothers and sisters who advocate the Prosperity Gospel only have it half-right. From what I understand, those who advocate the Prosperity Gospel say that, when we give everything to Jesus, we will prosper in material goods. And indeed, that is what today’s Gospel says. But the Prosperity Gospel is only half-right. Yes, we will receive all of these material goods…but persecution as well. Yes, we may receive lands and riches and a community—but in a way that only Jesus will provide. But it’s only half-right. There is the good, but also, the bad. Riches, yes, but persecutions, too.
For instance, wedding vows. “Do you promise to be faithful to him/her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him/her, and to honor him/her, all the days of your life?” It’d be quite easy if we only have to be faithful to our beloved when they are energetic, fun, young, healthy, and in a good mood. But do we need to be faithful when he or she is lethargic, miserable, elderly, sickly, and annoying? (Un)fortunately, the answer is yes!
When it comes to our life with Christ, it’s about the mountains as well as the valleys. Our Gospel today asks us to enliven and renew our relationship with Christ at all times, the good as well as the bad. In those times of joy as well as sorrow. By the very fact that Jesus is fully a human being, he had experienced everything we had experienced (minus the darkness of sin)—every joy, sorrow, disappointment, and surprise.
This means that Christ is faithful to us, and can relate to us, despite our distracted selves. Or, to put it another way, He is even more faithful to us in our times of distractions, frustrations, and rough times.
And because Jesus is so faithful to us, it means that he knows us much better than we can know ourselves. Jesus willed us, loved us, into existence. Our Father knows the number of hairs on our heads, the things that distract us, sadden us, and brings us joy. And it is this intimate knowledge of every material and spiritual pore of our being that allows the Godhead to give us “a hundred times more now in this present age.” He knows us, He loves, us, He desires desperately our flourishing.
And this is the hard part: He also allows us to endure “persecutions” and darker parts of our life in order to teach us what we desire. He allows these dark episodes in our life in order to show us what we ardently want for our flourishing.
Are we willing to be taught? Are our souls supple enough for that infusion of grace? Are we spiritually young enough to be pliable in the newness of Wisdom?
Rich Young Man from Hong Kong seemed to want everything, but on his own terms. Yet here is Jesus, wanting so much more than what the young man thought he wanted. Jesus always knows what is best for us, and desperately wants to grant it. May every encounter and event, dark or light, be a moment of grace and open heart, so that we may receive the Lord’s richness and grace in our lives.
Fr. Isaiah Mary Molano, O.P.