28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Picture: cc frankieleon
Sisters and brothers, do you know what is the most important part of an ice-cream cone? Well, you know what an ice-cream cone is for, right? Yes, it’s meant to be eaten. But not to be eaten in just any way. An ice-cream cone is designed to be eaten with a scoop of ice-cream. Which makes the most important part of the cone not really the solid portions. But rather the empty space on top. Because that’s where the scoop of ice-cream is meant to fit. So that what is sometimes said of a doughnut, is even more true of an ice-cream cone. The most important part is the hole in the middle.
And a good ice-cream cone is one where that hole is kept empty. Ready and waiting to be filled with ice-cream of different flavours. Imagine how disappointing it would be for you, if you tried to place a scoop of delicious ice-cream on top of your cone. Only to find that the hole had already been filled with something else. Bad enough if that something else was rice. Or potatoes. Or baked beans. But even worse, if it was something inedible. Like sand. Or cement. The cone would be ruined. No longer able to achieve the purpose for which it was made. To hold a scoop of ice-cream.
This much is true of an ice-cream cone. But what about a human being? What do you think is the most important part of a human being. Well, medically, I guess most would say that it’s the brain. Since a person is considered clinically dead, once the brain dies. Even though machines might continue to keep the rest of the body alive. But what about spiritually? Considered spiritually, what is the most important part of the human person? That is the question that I believe our Mass readings are inviting us to ponder today?
But to better appreciate this, we have to first recognise that the prayers and readings of our Mass speak to us about Something very precious. Nothing less than the powerful Presence of God Itself. And, like delicious ice-cream, the powerful Presence of God, makes Itself available to us in many different and delightful flavours. Known by various names. So, in the opening prayer just now, we mentioned one of these names. One of these flavours. We called it grace. We asked that God’s grace may at all times go before us and follow after us and make us always determined to do good works. God’s grace motivates us to do good things.
In the first reading, King Solomon prays for a taste of another flavour of God’s Presence. One that goes by the name Wisdom. Which Solomon considers the most valuable of all treasures. Since her radiance never sleeps. Wisdom allows Solomon to see and to judge worldly things according to the mind and heart of God.
The second reading sings the praises of yet another flavour of this heavenly Ice-Cream. Something that it calls the Word of God. Like Wisdom, the Word too, helps all who eat of it to penetrate and to judge hidden things. Even and especially our own secret emotions and thoughts. The ulterior motives and hidden agendas that we hide so well. Even from ourselves.
Then, in the responsorial psalm, we prayed for still another flavour of God’s Presence. In the morning, we said, fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days. The love of God brings joy to our hearts, even when sorrow may threaten to darken our days.
And, finally, in the gospel, mention is made of two other flavours of God’s Presence. The first is found in the young man’s question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? He wants to know. The second is found in Jesus’ subsequent remarks to his disciples. How hard it is, the Lord says, for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God. Eternal life and the kingdom of God. Two other flavours of God’s Presence.
So Grace and Wisdom and Word. Love and Kingdom and Life. These are some of the different names, the different flavours, of God’s Presence that our readings present to us. But that’s not all. Our readings do not just inspire us to pray for these gifts. They also teach us what we must do to receive them. How do we do it? Well, we receive God’s Presence in much the same way that an ice-cream cone receives a scoop of ice-cream. By keeping the space at the centre of our hearts, empty and available. Ready to welcome God, whenever God chooses to grace us with God’s Presence. So that, spiritually speaking, a human being is not unlike an ice-cream cone. The most important part is really the hole in the middle.
Which helps us to understand what is really happening between Jesus and the rich man in today’s gospel. The man is rich not just in material wealth. But also in moral behaviour. He is able to tell Jesus that he has kept all the commandments from my earliest days. And Jesus loves him for it. And yet, the Lord still finds the man lacking. Why? And why make the poor fellow sell everything he owns? And why say that it’s difficult for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God? What’s so bad about being rich?
Perhaps the difficulty has to do with how, in the process of accumulating and maintaining all his riches, both material and moral, the man has somehow filled up the empty space in the middle of his heart. Filled it up with himself. With his own ego. Filled it up, so that it is no longer able to receive the Presence of God. Which explains why Jesus wishes him to sell everything. Not to torture him. But to set him free. Not because riches are bad in themselves. But because the man has allowed them to take up the space that is reserved for God alone. The Divine Dessert that sweetens our life. And makes it truly worth living.
There is also one more thing. Perhaps the most important. Notice that Jesus doesn’t just ask the man to sell everything and give the money to the poor. The Lord also tells the man to come, follow me. To walk the road that Jesus walks. To be concerned with the things with which Jesus is concerned. To make the Lord the centre of his life. To fill up the space that he has emptied out with Jesus himself. What does this tell us, sisters and brothers? If not that Jesus himself is the Presence of God. Jesus himself is the Premier Flavour of all Flavours of Ice-Cream. Wisdom-Incarnate. Word-Made-Flesh. Kingdom-In-Person. Fullness of Love and Life.
To be a truly human person is to have Jesus constantly occupying the centre of our hearts and our lives. For just as an ice-cream cone is made only for the ice-cream. So too is a human being made only for God.
Sisters and brothers, if it is true that the most important part of an ice-cream cone is really the hole in the middle. Then what exactly is occupying that crucial space in the cone of your life today?