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Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 28:1-10; Deuteronomy 32:26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-36ab; Matthew 19:23-30

My dear encountered couples:

In the world there are people who spend their every waking hour trying to be first. I’m not talking about people who show up before dawn to be first in line for a ticket to the world series or a rock concert, I am talking about people who are always after money, power, and unlimited privileges for themselves. Those who are constantly seeking what is to their own personal advantage. They become influential, they become famous, doors open to them, people step aside for them. Jesus talks about some of these people and predicts their future. “Many who are first shall come last.”

Then there are people who sweat and strain and work two or more jobs to make ends meet, and at the end of their lives have little or nothing to show for it. They are known only to their family and friends; they die with only a brief mention in the obituaries. The midst of the pandemic, the big story today is that millions of families face power shut-offs because they’ve lost their jobs and can’t pay their utility bills. I can’t erase the image of children sitting in hot darkness while their parents anguish over their economic catastrophe. What happens when school starts with online classes that kids can’t access without electricity or the internet? Jesus speaks of them too. “The last shall come first.”

But before we condemn all the upper class and canonize the poor, let us be sure to notice that Jesus does not say “all” who are first will be last, or “all” who are last will be first. He just says “many” of them. “Many who are first shall come last, and the last shall come first.”

In speaking of how things will be in the next life Jesus is not talking about our place in line at the pearly gates. He is talking about how self-absorbed our lives in this world have made us, or how other-absorbed. Do we live our lives for what we can get out of it for ourselves, or for what we can help others get out of it?

We must all learn how to turn our material riches, whether they be a little or a lot, into spiritual riches. For only the spiritual is legal tender in the next world. Let us try our best to live in the Spirit of Christ. That’s the only way to become genuinely rich and eternally first.

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