September 24, 2014 - WEDNESDAY 25TH WEEK:

PROVERBS 30:5-9 ; LUKE 9:1-6

Both of today's readings confront us inescapably with a challenge to put out trust in God rather than in the possessions and wealth of this material world. Jesus makes this point in a concrete manner as he sends his disciples out on their first mission.  He discloses his mind on the matter in the specific, practical rules he directs to his disciples as he sends them on their mission to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven.   "Take nothing with you for the journey", he orders them.  Moreover, the author of the text from Proverbs in the opening lines of today's passage, as if realizing the message entrusted to him to pass on to us is not going to be popular or easy to accept, leads with a warning that we had better take his words seriously.  He puts it in these terms: "The word of God is tested, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver."

Our author then goes on to add the prayer addressed to the Lord: "give me neither poverty nor riches, provide me only with the food I need; lest, being full, I deny you saying, Who is the Lord?" We get glimpses from the Acts of the Apostles how seriously the apostles applied this teaching to themselves.  For example, when Peter and John encounter the crippled man at the door of the temple asking for alms, Peter replies: "Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give to you: stand up and walk."  As the Church membership grew, so did the needs of the community and provision was made for practical matters including finances.  We are told how Barnabas sold land he owned and gave the money to the apostles who administered it in the interest of widows, orphans and other needy ones.

As membership grew and spread to new areas the need for assembly of larger groups was felt and Churches were built.  After the conversion of Constantine the larger requirements of the growing Church were met by various wealthy contributors, not least of whom were Constantine himself and Helena, the empress mother.  By the time of Augustine around the year 400 AD, there were not only numerous church buildings including his Cathedral at Hippo.  He soon found the need to provide building space for the community of men he founded to assure a religious presence in his diocese in service of the Gospel.  The common life he established required a Rule which he provided.  One of the major provisions was a strict poverty so that, like the early apostles, all property and wealth was held in common.

As the centuries passed, along with the development of Christian doctrine there was a parallel evolution of practical matters involving government of the church and matters of insertion in the surrounding world that involved inevitably the question of possessions and poverty.  Our Order arose under the influence of the issue of simplicity and poverty.

Today, Pope Francis has been telling the whole Church, by his example as well as in word, that the times require us to reconsider the areas of life-style and poverty, keeping in mind the example set by Jesus, as brought to our notice in today's Gospel.  We cannot turn back the clock but we are to feel bound by the teaching of our Lord and his apostles and later saintly witnesses to Gospel teaching. May the Biblical witnesses we have just heard serve to guide us as we move into the future in this rapidly changing world, and may our Eucharistic celebration obtain for each of us here the grace to prove faithful to the teaching of our Lord Jesus.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger