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The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Wisdom 18:6-9 + Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19 + Luke 12:32-48
Catechism Link: CCC 359
August 7, 2022
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much ….”
When Jesus says these words about us, two questions immediately arise. First, what has Jesus entrusted us with? Second, what therefore will be required of us?
Each of us, naturally, has been given the gift of life. You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker that says, “Smile: your mom chose life!” In our day and age, this is not a gift that we ought to take for granted. Still, when we thank God each day for the gift of life, what exactly are we giving thanks for?
Human nature has two parts to it: body and soul. Like the simpler types of animals, we have bodies that are subject on the one hand to hunger and physical pain, and on the other hand to the pleasures of good meals and the process of physical healing.
However, unlike the lower animals, we humans can find meaning even in bodily suffering and pain. Yet we can discover this meaning only through our souls. The human soul is the means through which we can, if we choose, rise above being merely an animal. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much ….” God has entrusted each of us with a human soul, and that’s not a gift to be underestimated.
“In the beginning”, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ….’” In those words, we hear how much God has entrusted us with in giving each of us a human soul. The human soul is given to a person at the moment of his or her conception: that moment when the human body starts to exist from the gifts given by the father and the mother. But while the human body comes from a child’s parents, the human soul comes directly from God at that moment of conception. So what about that soul: what kind of gift is it that God gave each of us at the moment of conception?
If there’s a single word that sums up the power, the meaning, and the aim of the human soul, it’s the word “transcendence”. The human soul allows man to transcend himself. There’s nothing more boring, numbing, and deadly than to live for oneself. Unfortunately, the message of the world around us is to do just that: to live for oneself. But Christ calls us to live for others. The powers of the human soul, when animated by God’s grace, allow us to live for others and to rejoice in doing so. In doing so, we imitate the self-sacrificial love of the three Persons of the Trinity for each other.
Here, then, is what God requires of us: to transcend ourselves by living for others, both the others who are our neighbors, and the Other who is God. Living for others means loving those others. This is a high bar, of course, that God has set for us. Everything that’s sinful in us inclines us to live for ourselves, because living for ourselves is so much more comfortable. But God did not make us for comfort. If you doubt that, look at the crucifix. As a saint once said, “The crucifix is the true answer to every heresy.”
The fathers of the Church at the Second Vatican Council declared that “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” [Gaudium et Spes 22]. This divine Word became flesh and blood so that He might offer His self—His divinity and humanity—upon the Cross.
You see this when you gaze upon the crucifix. If you want to know what it means to be human; if you want to know what man is meant for; if you want to know the antidote to human misery, selfishness, and frustration with the meaningless of living the good life of comfort: look at the crucifix.
The soul is a vessel of grace. Grace is the power of God’s life that makes us strong enough to clear that very high bar that God has set for us: the bar of living for others instead of for ourselves. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much ….” God has entrusted each of us with soul and body in order to offer them up each day for others. The crucifix shows us how. The Eucharist gives us the strength to do so.