Thursday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time [II]
James 5:1-6  +  Mark 9:41-50
May 19, 2016

“Like sheep they are herded into the nether world; death is their shepherd….” [Psalm 49:15]

Saint Augustine of Hippo, in his exposition of this psalm, asks, “Whose shepherd?”  That is to say, when the Psalmist proclaims that “death is their shepherd”, whose shepherd does he mean?

St. Augustine answers: “The people whose entire concern is present affairs, who give no thought to the future”.  Or in other words, those “who think this life is the only life, whereas in reality it is more justly called death.”[1]

“But”, he continues, “what is meant by… having death for their shepherd? … We can say with certainty that death is either the separation of soul from body which is what people fear especially, or the separation of the soul from God, which people do not fear, although this is true death.

“Death is the shepherd of unbelievers, Life the shepherd of believers.  If the sheep who are shepherded by death have their home in hell, we conclude that the sheep whose shepherd is Life are to be found in Heaven.

“What?  Are we in Heaven already?  Yes, we are in Heaven through our faith.  If we are not, what becomes of the invitation, ‘Lift up your heart’?  If we are not in Heaven, what right had [Saint] Paul to say, [‘Our citizenship is in Heaven’]?[2]

“In the body we walk about on earth, but in our hearts we dwell in Heaven.  Or at least, we dwell there provided we send on ahead something to hold us there, for each one of us dwells in the place we think about, the place where we store our treasures. … The Lord tells us this quite plainly: ‘Where your treasure is, your heart will be too’.”[3]

[1] All quotations from Saint Augustine’s Exposition of the Psalms are from the New City Press series of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century.  To learn more about this series, click on the book cover below.
[2] Philippians 3:20.
[3] Matthew 6:21.