Ordinary Time 19, Year C-2010
- Trust God at all times, my people (Ps.62:9)
Says St. Vincent de Paul in a letter to Bernard Codoing: “And my consolation is that I think our Lord has carried on and is constantly carrying on the business of the Little Company” (1). Here, no doubt, is one indication, among many and repeated indications, of St. Vincent’s trust in Divine Providence and his embrace of Jesus’ assurance, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”
The God of St. Vincent’s faith and grounding in gospel teaching (2) is a Father who cares for the birds—including the unclean and least appreciated ravens—and cares even for fleeting plants so that he adorns them with splendor surpassing King Solomon’s. Such a God tenderly cares and adequately provides, a fortiori, for all human beings, since they are much more important than birds and plants, but especially for those who, being easily frightened and of little faith, are in need of greater encouragement to see their worth.
Accordingly, St. Vincent placed himself in the hands of the loving God and focused on God’s kingdom. His priorities established in proper order, he knew when to be attached to things or when to be detached from them. St. Vincent thus wrote to Pierre Escart: “I greatly hope we may set about stripping ourselves entirely of affection for anything that is not God, be attached to things only for God and according to God, and that we may seek and establish his kingdom first of all in ourselves, and then in others” (3).
It is for God, then, and for the sake of his kingdom that one practices either attachment or detachment. True, it is a matter of being free from something; yet more importantly, it is a matter of being free for God and his kingdom. Being unattached to worldly things makes genuine sense only to the extent that it comes hand in hand with service to the kingdom of God. “The virtue,” as a commentary on the Gospel of Luke has it, “is not in giving up one’s possessions but in being generous with resources” (4).
And generosity comes with one’s firm faith in a God who provides. Afraid no longer and instead full of courage because of “sure knowledge of the oaths” from the tradition of faith, one obeys—in the manner of the ancients who were well attested because of faith—and sells one’s belongings and gives alms. Reads the above-mentioned commentary:
- Given God’s care, we can be generous with the things God provides.
- The contrast between Jesus’ attitude ... and that of the rich fool could not be greater. ....
- Jesus explains his call away from worry by noting that life is more than food or clothing.
- The deepest dimension of life is relationship with God and with others. In 10:25-28 Jesus made
- it clear that real life has to do with relationship. Living is more than having; it is being in
- relationship with God and relating well to others (5).
What counts, in other words, is being in communion, not going it alone—to borrow from Cardinal Newman via Cardinal De Lubac—“fashioning willy-nilly from the deep wells of truth some private credo, repudiating the offer of infallible wisdom bequeathed by the Spouse of his Betrothed” (6). What is important is to have our hearts where our treasure is, which, according to St. John Vianney, imposes on us the glorious duty of praying and loving (7). “The very act of praying,” after all, “states that we believe that God is alive, that he relates to us, that he listens, that he cares about our journey, that he hears the cries of the poor especially, and that he responds” (8). What is essential is being part of God’s people, of his household of faith, busy there either as a vigilant servant ever ready to serve the master or as a faithful steward who lives up to the responsibilities that are commensurate to the gifts received and leaves no one unprovided or ill-treated.
But whether a servant or a steward, one who consumes Jesus in communion and proclaims his death until he comes in glory is expected, to borrow from St. Vincent, “to be consumed for God, to have no goods nor power except for the purpose of consuming them for God—that is what our Savior did himself, who was consumed for love of his Father” (9).
- (1) As cited in Robert P. Maloney, C.M., He Hears the Cry of the Poor (Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 1995) 55.
- (2) Cf. Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, II, 1-2.
- (3) As cited in Robert P. Maloney, C.M., op. cit., 58-59.
- (4) http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Discipleship-Trusting-God (accessed August 5, 2010).
- (5) Ibid.
- (6) http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/706/The_Church_Paradox_and_Mystery_Henri_de_Lubac.html (accessed August 5, 2010).
- (7) Cf. the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for August 4, the memorial of St. John Vianney.
- (8) Robert P. Maloney, C.M., op. cit., 65.
- (9) As cited in ibid., 58.