Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 10:1-12, 17-20
July 3, 2016
Last week, I encountered a big traffic jam…just a few blocks from my home.
When traffic started to slow, my first thought was “orange barrels.” They’re all over the place this time of year, so naturally, I assumed that roadwork was the cause of the stop-and-go. But, as I moved forward towards my street, there were no orange barrels in sight…no flagmen, no heavy equipment or workers to be seen.
So, I began to think that there had been a bad accident. I turned the radio off, lowered the air conditioner, and opened the driver’s side window so I would be better able to hear approaching emergency vehicles. But again…nothing! Well, about five minutes and just a few hundred feet later, I was able to determine the cause of the delay…GARAGE SALE!
Cars parked, almost bumper to bumper, on both sides of the road…some pulling out while others struggled to maneuver into a ridiculously tight space…people jay-walking in every direction…that was the cause of the traffic jam!
Several homes in a row had tables filled with whatnot, long racks of clothes, ladders and bikes and playpens and old lawn mowers, all pouring out of the garages and filling the driveways almost to the curb. As I crept past each house, trying not to hit anyone rushing to get a bargain, I couldn’t help but wonder how all of this “stuff” on display had fit into one home. And then I got to thinking about how the houses would soon be filled with “new stuff.” And then there were the people hauling freshly purchased and slightly used “stuff” to their cars to take to their homes…which are probably already filled with other “stuff.”
Our First Reading this Sunday, (Isaiah 66:10-14), is a very poetic description of the prosperity that Jerusalem was experiencing. The wealth that the people were blessed with was a source of comfort and joy. Still, over and over again in the Old Testament, we see how prosperity was the undoing of the people. The heavy burden of “stuff” weighed them down…in a sense, re-enslaved this former slave nation that left Egypt for freedom in the Promised Land with little more than the clothes on their backs.
We live in a very prosperous nation, prosperous to the point that it’s hard for us to consider the reality that untold millions in other parts of our world live in tents, makeshift shakes, and other temporary shelters. Countless families don’t have real homes let alone garages. They have no surplus or discarded “stuff” to sell. Americans, wise enough to stop and reflect, come to an appreciation of how blessed we are.
But our Readings should cause us to pause and consider how easily the blessing of material prosperity can become what it became for Israel…a burden that weighs us down…a kind of enslavement that prevents us from moving freely toward the Kingdom…a source of pride that could well bring about our undoing.
The lesson here is not a call to be charitable, although that is certainly implicit in every line of the Gospel. Neither does it appear to be a condemnation of wealth; rather, it seems to be cautionary in tone.
There is a definite sense of urgency in the Gospel warning us that time is short. We can’t afford to use energy on lugging any unnecessary “stuff” with us as we make our way towards the Promised Land. The source of our comfort, pride, and joy should not be in the “stuff” we are blessed to use…but rather in our faith…our faith in the saving power of The Cross.
The message on this 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time seems to reinforce what we learned last Sunday when Jesus challenged would-be disciples to get their priorities in order, putting God above all else. Certainly, faithful discipleship demands that we put the Gospel above “stuff.”
What a perfect message to hear on this Independence Day weekend. True freedom comes from being independent on material things and completely dependent on The Cross.
Whether or not you have actual travel plans this weekend…travel light…travel free…travel in the Peace of Christ!