Reading (2 Timothy 1:1-8) Gospel (St. Mark 4:21-25)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear a reading that tends to trouble a lot of people, that is, Our Lord telling us that to those who have more, more will be given, and from those who have not, what little they think they have will be taken away. We ask ourselves: How is it, if God is just and merciful, kind and gracious, that He would take away the little bit somebody has? And why is it that He would give more to those who already have plenty? The point is not quite what it would appear on the surface.
We have to look at this in two ways. First of all, given the society in which we live, we live in a society that has gone completely astray. In this world, those who have chosen to reject Our Lord are spiraling downward at an accelerated pace. It is amazing, with all the different things a person can get themselves into these days, how quickly people who at one time seemed to have at least a little bit of faith throw themselves headlong into every possible sin they can get themselves into. At the same time, those who choose to try to live good and upright lives, those who try to have a spiritual life, are growing by leaps and bounds. There has never been a time when the distinction between a sinner and a saint is more clear, because there has never been a time when it has been easier to become a saint. Neither has there been a time when it is easier to throw yourself headlong into sin. We have a choice we have to make. If we want to grow in holiness, more will be given. If we want to throw ourselves into sin, the little bit of holiness we think we have will be quickly lost.
We see exactly that in what Saint Paul is talking about. He says to Timothy today: I remind you to stir into flame the gift that God gave you. In other words, the gift is already there, but it is given in seminal form. In this case, it is a spark, and Timothy has to fan it into flame. He reminds Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power, a spirit of self-control. Then he goes on to talk about how we do have to bear our share of the hardship which the Gospel entails, but with the strength that comes from God. So if we are going to grow in holiness, we know we are going to have to suffer, but the grace comes from God to be able to do it.
If we look, then, at the ultimate question about what Our Lord is speaking of, we say, “For those who will go to heaven, they will receive all, because they will receive God. And for those who choose instead to go to hell, they will lose everything that they thought they had; they will have nothing.” Those who have will indeed receive more until they have received all, because of God. But those who refuse to serve God will lose even the little bit they have, and they will have nothing for eternity. It is not God Who is taking these things away – it is the person himself who has chosen it.
We need to understand that those choices are made in this life. We know that every single person who dies in the state of grace will go to heaven. We may have to stop off at Purgatory for a while, but we will go to heaven if we die in the state of grace. Every single person who dies in the state of mortal sin will go to hell. They cannot go to heaven because they have chosen against God. Once again, grace is the life of God. To those who have, more will be given until they have the fullness of God. Those who have not will lose even the little they think they have.
Our Lord tells us that we have to be very cautious about how we hear, because He says, The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you, and then reminds us of that statement again: To those who have, more will be given; and from those who have not, what little they think they have will be taken from them. That is true both in this life, as well as in eternity. In this life, we can repent, we can turn our lives around, and we can choose to become saints. Once we die, there is no more choice to make; it is too late at that point to change our minds. We have the opportunity right now to be able to grow in holiness in great abundance through the grace of God, and ultimately with our focus set on heaven, what we desire in this life we will receive in its fullness in the next, so that indeed we can be counted among those who have and will receive more until all is ours.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.