15th Sunday - homily
Years ago as a seminarian, I was privileged to spend a few weeks in Calcutta, India with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s sisters. It was an incredible experience being able to be with the sisters and serve the poorest of the poor. One image that stands out from that trip is the day that two of the sisters were sent off to different countries to do mission work. They were only allowed to take one box of things. One, little box! I moved here 10 days ago and had a whole lot more than one box (Msgr. Filardi said that I had more stuff than he did…but, he came back for another load in the afternoon, so he might have had more!). These sisters definitely live the simple, detached life that our Lord calls us to live in today’s Gospel.
Living simply brings freedom. I remember when I sold my house to go back to the seminary (one of the times!) and sold my stuff to charity. It was the most freeing experience I’ve ever had. When we are detached from the things of the world, we are free to give ourselves to Christ and others. When we are attached to people or things, it is much more difficult. This is what many people are experiencing with the recent deaths of celebrities. If we are attached to someone or thing, it is hard to let go of them. I’ve heard some commentaries say that people “worshiped” this star or “idolized” that star. The Bible – pretty much in the Ten Commandments – tells us to worship God alone and to be attached to Christ alone. We are to love people and enjoy things, but not to be attached to them. When we are attached to Christ alone, then we are free to give ourselves to Him. This is what the Missionaries of Charity experienced and this is what the Apostles experienced. Their only attachment was Christ, so they were free to go out and proclaim him to others.
Simplicity brings freedom and happiness. We don’t know too many people who are really happy because they have a lot of stuff or have a house full of clutter. In fact, it’s usually the opposite: people are much happier when they have gotten rid of stuff or removed it from their home. Those who try to live simply are happy people. The sisters didn’t seem to be sad that they could only take one little box of things with them. In fact, they were smiling from ear to ear; they looked so happy. The saints – those who live Gospel simplicity – are the happiest people we know.
The rewards of simplicity are freedom, happiness, and also power. The Apostles were called by Christ to radical simplicity – no food, no second tunic, etc. – and were given radical power. They drove out evil spirits, performed healings, and cured people. They were clean, open vessels through which God’s grace poured. Because they were detached and free by living simplicity, the Apostles as well as the Missionaries of Charity had great power in bringing Christ to others.
Finally, when we live simply and are free of worldly attachments, we are able to enjoy and participate in the many “riches of (God’s) grace”, as St. Paul writes in today’s second reading. God offers so many riches to us; chief among them is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the greatest treasure on Earth. When we are attached to Christ alone, we approach the Eucharist with a… “whew, what a gift”. We appreciate the incredible gift of God in the flesh! As we gaze upon our Lord and receive Him in Holy Communion, let us realize how rich we are to receive such a treasure. For when we receive the Eucharist, we are the richest people on Earth.