32nd Sunday OT year B 2015:
Every year as we get closer to Advent and the beginning of the new liturgical year, we hear readings about the end of time and the last judgment. We even started talking about it a bit last week: we are all called to be Saints. Either we are saints or not. Now, we might not like to think about things like death, judgment, heaven, and hell. But, it comes up every year. We get a chance to think about eternity.
Normally, when we think about Jesus, we think of him as the merciful judge. We think of him as the good shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep. But, today in the gospel we hear something a little bit different, when talking about the scribes he states, “they will receive a very severe condemnation.” Obviously, we don’t want to be like those scribes, do we? We want to be like the generous widow who gave all she had. We want salvation, not condemnation. We want to be saints.
But, what do you envision when you think about the last judgment? I think very often we get the idea that God sits us down, takes a long hard look at us, then measures up how many bad things we did versus how many good things. In other words, God is like the great task master. Or, some people think: Oh everything is just fine, God doesn’t really care what I do… Neither one of these is a very good option. Jesus talks about condemnation in the Gospel. What does salvation look like?
What does it mean to be a saint? It means to be Holy. Saint is a word that means “holy person.” God alone is Holy. The saint is a person who is a lot like God. Salvation means spending eternity in communion with God. If we are going to spend eternity with God, then we have to become like God. The final judgment is like a compatibility test. Are you compatible with God for all eternity? God is pure love, pure holiness, pure light. Do we have enough love, light, and holiness to be with him? The scribes may have talked the talk, they knew the law, they were the teachers and leaders in the faith, but they were proud, arrogant, and showy. None of these things were compatible with God. The widow, on the other hand, was humble, poor, and generous. She is compatible with God.
So, how do we become compatible? God will change us, if we let him. But, it happens through our action. One of the best classes I ever had was a class on the philosophy of John Paul II. Before he was the Pope he was a teacher of philosophy. His thinking was incredibly dense and difficult to understand. It was a really challenging class. We read his book “The Acting Person.” In this book he captured so well the effect that our action have on us human beings. He said that our actions have an effect on us in that they mold us into the people we become while we are still in the state of our human development. In other words, the stuff we do makes us the people we are. Our bad actions make us into the kind of people that are not compatible with God, our good actions make us into saints. It is not simply enough to want to be good, to want to be a saint. Rather, we become holy by responding to God’s grace and taking action in the midst of our daily lives. The scribes knew all about holiness, but none of them were Holy. The widow may not have been an expert at the Torah, but she was humble, kind, and generous.
What kind of people do we want to become? In that book I mentioned, John Paul said that all of us are free to become the people we want to be. So, no matter where we are right now, by the power of God’s grace, we can become holy, we can become saints.