True Gift of Self

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Dear Folks,

This is Holy Week, the height of our liturgical year. We try to put everything else aside to focus on this journey. We follow Jesus from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His time in Jerusalem, His passion and death, and finally the resurrection.

All four Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This year we look at the Gospel of Luke, who, just before the entry tells the story of a king who returns to his kingdom to hold his servants accountable for their stewardship and destroy his enemies (Luke 19:11-27). This shows us how to view His time in Jerusalem. He will hold them accountable for their stewardship of God’s gifts.

The essence of the Gospel is the gift of self. Our Lord gave Himself completely, and that comes to its fullness in His sacrifice on the cross. We see here a contrast between those who truly give the gift of self with those who give a false gift or who refuse completely.

After His entry into Jerusalem, He weeps for it, saying that they lost their chance for peace and would be destroyed (Luke 19:41-44). This anticipates the talk on the destruction of the temple, coming persecution, and the coming of the kingdom (Luke 21:5-36). This suggests that if they had accepted His teaching, they could have avoided this catastrophe. We know that they tried a futile uprising and were destroyed. Centuries later, Christianity would conquer the Roman empire by evangelizing it. What would have happened if they tried that approach first thing? Unfortunately, so many people threw away the opportunity that God had given them. Their bad stewardship was being judged.

Then Jesus cleansed the temple. God had given them the great gift of temple so they could give themselves to Him in their worship, and they were using it for their own selfish purposes. Their bad stewardship was being judged.

The chief priests, the scribes and the elders attempt to pin Jesus down on His authority, but they won’t take a stand themselves (Luke 20:1-8). This isn’t going to work. We have all dealt with people who want to hold others accountable, but object to being held accountable themselves. We cannot claim to understand Christianity while staying safe. We have to put ourselves on the line, including the possibility that Christ will completely rework our lives,

including being publicly known for our positions. Anonymous criticism gets no respect. Again, that is not a true gift of self.

He tells the story of the tenant farmers who won’t make a return to the vineyard owner (Lk. 20:9-19), even killing his son. He is making clear that the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people have not been good stewards of the great gifts they have been

given. Instead of giving their hearts, their minds, their wills and their strength to God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5), they kept their hearts for themselves and used God for their own purposes.

We contrast this with two stories just before and near the end of this section. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) received an unexpected opportunity in the visit of Jesus and used it to turn his life completely around. An unnamed widow (Luke 21:1-4) was given very little to work with, but responded with all her heart and all her self. These are praised for their stewardship.

I recently rewatched the 2019 movie “Midway.” The battle of Midway was one of the most critical battles of World War II, and it is very inspiring to see so many people who made such great and brave sacrifices for the sake of the war effort. They wanted to live, to be safe, and to be with their families, but they knew how much their work mattered. During this holy week, I suggest we reflect on how we have responded to God, how might He be calling us to respond, and how well do we believe that our response to God matters?

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

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