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(Part 19)


November 26, 2012
Today’s gospel: Luke 21:1-4

One thing that the New Evangelization will demand is a greater commitment to Christ and to mission. The world is now a radically different place, pagan once again, but also very much anti-Christian. Persecution will intensify. Martyrdom lurks at the door. The New Evangelization is not just an emotional high about something “new” and exciting, but a down-to-earth realism about what it takes to bear abundant fruit.

The New Evangelization requires total surrender to God. Now even for those who have met and are striving to live Christ, the last thing to surrender is often money and possessions. Many who have undergone personal conversion and are into ongoing transformation still need the conversion of the pocketbook. This is a very tough nut to crack. Indeed mammon competes mightily with God in securing the allegiance of people.

And so it is that we look at the poor widow and her very small contribution compared to what wealthy people put into the treasury (Lk 21:1-2). Now the world, and many church officials, favor those who are big contributors. But not Jesus. He rather extolled the poor widow. “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” (Lk 21:3-4). Being poor, having only two small coins, no longer having any money for food, willing to go hungry, she put in more than all the rest because she offered her whole self for God--heart, body and soul.

What kind of total commitment will be required by the New Evangelization? Total commitment means a detachment from material things. Total commitment means a humility borne out of non-dependence on self or on worldly resources. Total commitment means a deep trust in the providence of God and His provision for the needs of His people.

Here is where the poor, by the state of their economic and social situation, have a natural advantage over the rich. The rich look to their wealth while the poor look to God. The rich are proud of their social standing while the poor, having no social standing at all, can only look to God’s consolation. The rich, like the rich official who wanted eternal life but could not detach from his wealth (Lk 18:18-23), are held back from following Jesus even more closely, while the poor, with nothing to hold them back, would more readily follow Jesus all the way.

This is why Jesus came into the world poor, and left the world poor. He was born in a borrowed manger and he was buried in a borrowed tomb. He clearly told his would-be followers, who could have followed him on a romantic notion of adventure or glory, that he walked the path of the cross. He told them to renounce all their possessions (Lk 14:33). He told them to be detached even from family.

How does God bring us to the point of total commitment and surrender? Aside from, or as a part of, meeting and living Christ, there is a need for suffering and pain that purify and draw us closer to God.

For the very poor like the widow, this is a natural situation. They suffer every day. This is why the poor are blessed, as the kingdom of God is theirs (Lk 6:20b). However, the poor still need to see the blessedness of their situation of total dependence on God and have their own conversion of heart.

For the wealthy, it will be difficult. Jesus himself says that it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 19:23). Perhaps God will intervene. Many self-sufficient individuals have undergone conversion when they became sick to the point of death, or lost all their money, or their marriage and family broke up.

For everyone else, especially for those who somehow have a relationship with Jesus, there will be enough trials and pains in life. What they will need to learn is how, rather than turning away from God during such times, they in fact enter more deeply into a relationship of trust in Him. They need to see how God is favoring His children with discipline (Heb 12:6).

So where are you now? Considering that money is often the last to be surrendered, consider then, as some measure of your conversion, how you give money back to God (parish and community). Do you give at least a tithe? Will you give only from your surplus wealth or are you willing to give from your whole livelihood, even from your poverty?

But more importantly, do you offer your whole self? Do you offer everything that you are and have for the glory of God and the work of His kingdom on earth? Does your passion for God and His work transcend and supersede all your other personal preferences, priorities, agenda?

Such is the commitment needed for the work of the New Evangelization.

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P.S. While reading the above you may find yourself mentally listing down many reasons why what I have said is not what is demanded of us by Jesus, like: Am I expected to give all my money away? How will I provide for my family? Am I supposed to detach from my loved ones? Am I to rejoice in suffering and pain? Am I to do nothing else but serve the Kingdom? Am I to let go of all personal desires and priorities?

That is the wrong knee-jerk approach. You are already setting up a barrier of defense. You are already preparing yourself to reject the hard teaching. What you need to do is to accept what is said (in humility), resolve to follow Jesus whatever it takes (in total trust), and then bring everything into prayer, asking the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and wisdom. Hopefully your questions will be answered.

Jesus does say seemingly unacceptable things, such as hating family members if one is to be a disciple (Lk 14:26), or selling all you have and giving it to the poor in order to have treasure in heaven (Lk 18:22). You can immediately reject it as impractical or even foolish, or you can open yourself up to the mysteries of the Kingdom.

Your choice.

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