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God Gives Us Gifts for Others’ Needs
In 587 BC, the Babylonians took siege of Jerusalem. They destroyed the city and took the inhabitants as captives back to Babylon. It was known as the great exile. Fifty years later, the Persians rose to power and took over management of the world. They told the Jews in Babylon that they could go back to rebuild their city and become a nation again. No one wanted to go back and for a good reason. Why would they want to return, their homes had been destroyed, and they had no temple for worship or public buildings for governing. They had already established themselves in Babylon and became bankers, lawyers, and successful merchants. But, God wanted them to go back, so he sent the prophet Isaiah to persuade them. Isaiah told them that God would build a road for them to make easy travel. They would not have to go around the mountain pass. Instead, God would take the mountains and fill the valleys. They would have quick direct and level path. Then God would help them rebuild the city, and they will become a light for all the nations, and many people will learn the ways of God.
Luke’s Gospel proclaims that God is going to build a road to salvation for all people. The Gospel uses Isaiah’s road building analogy. Yet, how does one apply Isaiah’s analogy to our personal lives? So the crowds go to John the Baptist to find out. John tells them if you have an extra t-shirt, that is clothing that is closest to the skin, give one to someone that does not have any clothes around the skin. The same with food. If you have food, give to someone who does not have food. Take the mountain of your wealth and fill the void of need and you will build the road to salvation.
Later in the Gospel, Jesus tells the story of the rich man who had lots of t-shirts and sumptuous food. A poor man came to his door. The dogs licked his open sores which meant that he had no clothing covering his skin and he had no food. The rich man did not give him anything. After the rich man died, he was in a place of torment. Beyond him, he could see the poor man and Abraham feasting. He could not join them because a chasm had separated them. The moral of the story is this: had the rich man taken his mountain of wealth and filled the void of need he would have built a level road, allowing him to leave the place of torment and join the feast with father Abraham.
In another parable, a man has an abundant harvest. He wonders what he is going to do with all the food. He decides to hoard it all for himself. That decision did not go over very well with God, and the man died that night. Again the moral of the story is this: when God gives us riches wealth gifts, it is not for us, it is given to us so we can help people.
When I first came to St. Clement we had to renovate the church. I also was on call every weekend for the Longwood Hospitals. After three years I realized I didn’t have a life. All I did was work. I always wanted to fly fish, so began by taking a fly tying class. When I finished the course, I went up to my fly tying professor to thank him. I told him I have never actually caught a fish on a fly. He told me that he was retired and fished just about every day. He invited me to join him and his friend. I took him up on his offer. As my fly fishing professor was showing me how to fish with a fly road, his friend would come up to us and ask for a few extra flies. He kept losing them in the trees. Finally, the professor asked him, “Why don’t you use your own flies.” He said, “Because yours are better.” When we were done, I thanked them and asked how long they were friends. The friend said they had known each other many years ago and then his wife got sick. He quit his job and took early retirement to take care of her. When she he was left with nothing. He had no job, career, pension, or friends. The wife was all he had.
The fly tying professor said, “I had not seen or heard from him in seventeen years. I got a thought—a premonition—to call him. Why should I call? All these years and never a card or a call, why should I call him? When I did, it was a week after he buried his wife. He was not in a good place so I said to him, ‘I am going to take you fly-fishing.’ We have been best friends ever since.”
I thought that they were just two ordinary guys who liked to fly fish. Little did I know that it turns out that they both are unsung heroes: one gave up everything to care for his wife, the other saved the husband by giving what he had: fly-fishing.
God gives us gifts. Whatever it is, time, talent, treasure, God gives us gifts. Remember that the gift is not for us, He gives so we can help people. That is how the road to salvation is built. We take our mountain of wealth and fill in the voids.Back to All Homilies