Homily for the 22th Sunday in ordinary time, year B

"For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance." (Matt 13:12) These words of Christ are true on many levels. Those blessed with good parents, to grow up in an intact family where peace is lived within the family, where parents encourage them, who have many natural talents, are thereby better equipped to leverage their position and abilities to achieve their goals, exterior goals such as getting a job or starting a business, and interior goals such as learning discipline and perseverance.

But as a secret treasure doesn't benefit someone if he knows nothing at all about it, so the blessings we have won't do much for us if we don't perceive them. And conversely, they will profit us more, if we not only are aware of them, but recognize them precisely as blessings given us by God. But really, everything good we have, receive, do, and enjoy, is a blessing given us by God. "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17) Thankfulness for what we've been given is a virtue, and gratitude towards God is like a virtue supporting all others. As hope and joy are key in directing us toward what we have not yet attained and resting in the good we have, so gratitude plays a key role in distinguishing joy from mere pleasure, in giving deep meaning to the goods we enjoy: they do not arise simply by happenstance, nor are they merely the fruit of our labors, but are a gift given us by someone who loves us deeply, by God himself.

Gratitude leads naturally to responsibility. A rich, but spoiled child, ungrateful for all he has received from his parents, is readily incline to spend-thriftiness and laziness. Whereas a child of parents with more moderate means, grateful for his parents and all he has received from them, is inclined to apply himself and what he has to achieve his goals.

St. James exhorts us: "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22) Receiving the word of Christ in a personal manner, as a gift granted and entrusted to us, leads us to respond in kind. And so obedience to the demands of the Gospel is a sign that we've received the word within our heart. St. James adduces as an example visiting orphans and widows, and keeping oneself pure from worldly excesses and perversions.

To many, the moral requirements of the Gospel of Christ and the Church appear rather as a burden making life worse than as a way and means to happiness. This notion is one of the many causes why christian faith is not taken serious or even outright rejected. The decisive reason for the abandonment of Christianity,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, the year before he became Pope, is that “It seems to place too many restraints on humankind that stifle its joie de vivre, that limit its precious freedom, and that do not lead it to open pastures but rather into want, into deprivation.”

It is true that, those who, in faith, experience their life as a way in friendship with God, who live each day grateful for the blessings of that day and the life, do not always find it easy in a given moment to do what is right and good. But, for them, on the whole, it is ultimately a joy rather than a burden to follow the Lord, to love and serve him. In this way they experience in their own lives the truth of the Lord’s promise, “My yoke is sweet and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:30).

Wherever on this spectrum we may fall, whether we’ve merely accepted the faith from our parents as something we just take it for granted, and don’t find it any particular source of great joy, or whether we have already experienced the tremendous joy of knowing Christ, let’s pray for a grateful heart every day, to be attentive to the many good things that happen to us, and that we ourselves achieve, to see this a loving gift of God to us, and to respond in kind, with a joyful and loving heart to him, in Himself and in our brothers and sisters.

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