Many of you might have heard of or seen the events of the World Youth Day held last week in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. You might have seen footage of the famous Copacabana beach filled with people. I was there. You might not see me but I was one of more than 3 million young people from all parts of the world participating in the celebrations led by Pope Francis himself. But the final mass which was on Sunday that you might have seen or followed through the internet wasn’t originally planned to be at Copacabana beach. The Church had allocated another place for it. It was called Campos Fidei or ‘The Field of Faith’. However, the World Youth Day organizers had to make a last-minute decision on Friday not to have the Vigil there on Saturday night and the Final Mass on Sunday for the reason that it was being flooded. It was a disappointment for many because it took a lot of time, a lot of resources, a lot of effort to set up and a lot of people to design and to build. Not only that, the place was beautifully surrounded by mountains. The design was beautifully created and the templete and the altar was amazing. But what somehow consoled me and I believed for many others too, was Pope Francis’ comment on the change of the venue. The Pope said words to this effect: ‘We might not be at Campos Fidei, but it doesn’t matter, because the real Campos fidei, the real field of faith is our heart.’
I just loved this comment of the Pope because it’s true. The true field of faith is our heart. This Sunday Jesus in our gospel, calls us to have a closer look at our field of faith. He is inviting us to make an assessment of our hearts and to ask ourselves: ‘What are our priorities’ and ‘What do we value more than anything else’?
In our gospel today, a man went to Jesus and asked him to act as a rabbi and serve as an arbitrator between him and his brother regarding their inheritance. Jesus however, didn’t just give in to the appeal. ‘Who appointed me your judge or the arbitrator of your claims?’ he asked the man. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care. It doesn’t mean that he’s insensitive. He just wants to direct the man to sort out his priorities and the things he values in order for him to live a truly human life and also to be assured of eternal life. He just wants to help the man realize that the conflict between him and his brother is not just a matter of who owns what but it is basically an issue of what caused the conflict- that is the desire to have more…Jesus wishes his audience that the desire to have more possessions and more security in this world and in this life is not the way to live a truly human life.
On deeper reflection of the gospel, we could see that Jesus is offering us two basic ways to live a truly human life and to live worthy of eternal life.
First is that to live a truly human life is to go beyond ourselves. It is a big call for us today. It is quite a task to accomplish because it means getting out of our comfort zones and help others, especially the poor and the needy. This means we need to re-assess our sense of security. We need to ask ourselves not only ‘how much savings we have’, but ‘why do we keep saving them?’ When we could honestly ask this question to ourselves, we could hear Jesus telling us in our field of faith: Life is not just about what we own or possess now but rather it is about how we give and share them to others. This calls us to go out there empowered by the love of God and motivated by love with our neighbours. If we do this in love, we don’t count how much it would cost us or even what does it cost us. If we go beyond ourselves, we let God take over our lives by allowing him to be his instruments of his love and care for others.
Yes, it is a difficult and challenging path but thank God for the examples of the saints, we know it is not impossible. We just have to imitate the example of Mother Teresa who found the way to live her life to its fullness by serving God unconditionally through serving the poor, the needy and the marginalized in her society. Mother Teresa couldn’t do all that if she took the credit to herself. But because she went beyond herself, because she put aside all her personal ambitions and interests and let God make her an instrument of his love, she became a beautiful model of Christian service. Christ became her life, her power and her source of strength, that she could only see herself as a mere instrument of God’s love and care for the sick, the needy and the poor. This resonates loudly in one of her beautiful sayings: “I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more.”
The second way to live our lives to its fullness is to go beyond this world. St Paul would help us find a way to be able to realize this in our lives in his words to the Colossians in our Second Reading today. Paul wrote: “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is…Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth…” This means we are not to be content on self-preservation now. This means we are to strive living for eternal life, the life after this earthly life we have. This means we have to long for heaven. This means we need to remember always that we are just pilgrims on this earth. Our true home is in heaven. Jesus is inviting us in our gospel today to realize this and to make this our resolution even, to stop storing up treasures for ourselves and begin to make ourselves rich in the sight of God.
And how we might respond to this invitation of Jesus?
We go back to St Paul’s letter that we have just read in our Second reading today as a way to take up with this resolve to be rich in the sight of God. St Paul wrote: ‘That is why, you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty, passion, evil desires and especially greed…’
So as we continue our Eucharistic celebration today, let us ask ourselves: ‘How are we living our lives now? To answer this, I leave you with a bit of a homework to do. When we go home today let us try to make an inventory of our lives. Let us just begin by asking ourselves: ‘What are the ten things in my life, I can’t live without?’