Monday, October 23, 2006

29th Monday in Ordinary Time (II)
From Avarice to Grace

Readings: Ephesians 2:1-10; Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 4ab, 4c-5; Luke 12:13-21

Whatever our profession or vocation, it seems that we all inevitably end up becoming builders of one kind or another. Not only do we build new roads and MRT lines, skyscrapers and housing estates, but also businesses and careers, friendships, families and communities. All this is quite natural and even essential to human living. And yet, if our readings today are anything to go by, it is important for us to examine how we build.

On the one hand, we can build like that man in gospel parable. Jesus indicates the whole basis of this kind of building when he tells us to be on your guard against avarice of any kind… We see this avarice illustrated in the man’s actions. His sole focus is on himself and what more he can possess. He hoards. And he does this as though he’s trying, in some way, to buy his own security. And yet, Jesus says, a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns. It’s a dangerous temptation, not least because it can be very subtle. Although the obscene accumulation of wealth is probably the most obvious form of avarice, is it not also possible to hoard other things: attention, acquaintances, political power, knowledge, even spiritual experiences…?

Contrast this hoarding born of insecurity with what Paul talks about in the first reading. In place of avarice, Paul speaks of grace. True security, true salvation, is not something that we can buy or hoard. We do not become secure by making ourselves rich. Instead, our security is found in God, who is infinitely rich… in grace. For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God…

This, of course, does not imply that we should then refrain from all building. But might it not change the style and atmosphere in which we build? What happens when we begin to grow in the security of knowing that we are God’s work of art… in Christ Jesus, that it is God who is building us up? Indeed, as the psalmist says, He made us, we belong to him. What might happen when we try to let God become the manager of this building project of ours? What difference might this make to all that we do and are preoccupied with each day?

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