We sometimes live in a mathematical world of probabilities and calculations. We juggle time, and place it like an investment for a better gain. We throw ‘good works’ into the equation to seek for a better balanced life. We select people we want to associate with, often the factor of choice being how much beneficial influence they will have on our lives. We sub consciously calculate the probability of some returns according to who we help and what we need to do.
We will probably be more ‘willing’ to do something for the boss at work, and perhaps hesitate towards helping someone “who is in need of clothes and has not enough to live on” (second reading). Everyone will be somewhat guilty of this behavior but in the law of human nature set in the realities of this world, this is unavoidable because of our human instinct to survive. But this is purely our human self.
Faith invites us to look at our spiritual self. Faith states that life is eternal. Eternal life is the biggest reward of human life and this beneficial reward can either be won or lost. Faith states that human life is a sub set of spiritual life. Our logic must embrace both. In every permutation to make our human life better, the factor of a spiritual life must be present. And here is the formula.
“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Today’s Gospel)
We need to re-calibrate. This is a leap into faith: we need to re-assess the cost to ‘self’ in all that we do. In the pureness of this faith formula, ‘self’ has to be set at ‘zero worth’ for self to eventually be worth the big reward of eternal life. Renounce ‘self’ and substitute with “take up the cross”.
The example of this faith formula has already been given. He is the Christ who gave everything of him ‘self’ as an act of pure love for the other. He emptied him ‘self’ to the point of accepting death, even death on a cross. Christ demonstrated the method to live our human life with faith. Faith must be evidenced by good works. “Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.” (Second reading)
Pure good works, in simple description, is going the extra mile for the other person. Good works are done without calculation and expectation of gains. They are not done out of obligations. We give without counting costs. In our mind, there is no ulterior motive. In the pureness of good works, we simply do because it needs doing. In the other person we recognize human life that need preserving for eternity. Faith is a gift to give to preserve life. And this faith is only tangible and visible through good works.
In this extra mile we will experience the reality of Christ in the realities of our human world. Good works is the common denominator in the mathematics of faith. It equalizes our human instincts to survive by fueling growth in our spiritual life. Good works is intentional discipleship “to be a follower of mine”.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time