22nd Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

It was obvious to Jesus of Nazareth, as it was to his Disciples, that because of his lifestyle, his opposition to and his preaching against, oppression, injustice and intolerance, that if he went to Jerusalem (the seat of power of his enemies) for the feast of the Passover, he would almost certainly be arrested and imprisoned or executed.
Jesus well understood that he could run and hide from his enemies but not without being untrue to his preaching and example. He could save his life but not without losing his credibility. He could run but only at the cost of vitiating his message and the power of his example.
At this particular time Peter and the Apostles did not understand this way of thinking. They could only see the looming danger and try to avoid it irrespective.
Having slapped down this approach pretty smartly, Jesus proceeded to explain why and what his point of view was.
What follows is all about freedom. The freedom of the children of God. The words free and freedom appear many times in the New testament.
What is the freedom of the children of God?
It is the freedom to do the right thing. It is the freedom to do good. It is the freedom to love. It is the freedom to forgive. It is the freedom to give things away. It is the freedom to do the will of the Father.
To quote Jesus of Nazareth in John 8;
‘I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me…. I always do what is pleasing to him….. If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
If he selfishly gave in to his Apostles importuning to run and hide he would save his life but would lose credibility and his message would be forgotten and lost. Hence his words, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.” But if he remains true to his calling and to his preaching, if he wants his message to be noted and preserved, then he must go to Jerusalem for the feast and accept the consequences, “those who lose their life (for my sake) will find it.”
The best way I can explain this is to tell you a true story about on person in South Africa. Khandy was a young catholic lady who came to mass from time to time. She was about twenty or twenty one and had finished her secondary education two or tree years before. She had been trying to get accepted into a nearby teachers training college – so far unsuccessfully. A couple of years later she succeeded and eventually emerged as a trained teacher. The next few years were spent trying to get a teaching position in a school. Eventually in her late twenties she got the job. Then about a month later she arrived in to see me. She handed me a fat A5 size envelope. I was a bit nonplussed, so I opened the envelope to see what it contained. It was full of Rand notes to the value of about eighty pounds. I asked what this was for and she said it was an offering to the church. At my obvious confusion she explained that when she was trying to get a place in the teacher’s training college she promised God that if she succeeded and got a job she would give half her first month’s salary as an offering of gratitude to God. I was totally gobsmacked. Not because of the amount of money but because I knew that up to now she had been totally dependant on her parents handouts and must for years have longed for her own money so that she could buy some of the things she so much desired. Despite her promise to God it must have taken an extraordinary degree of self-denial to give away, to lose, half her first month’s salary. I am sure that if her parents or peers knew what she had done they would be scandalised and regard her as a fool. At that moment she was truly free. Free to do what she understood to be the right thing. Free from the slavery to money.
I still remember what she did. I even remember her name, when so many others have faded from my memory. Many of you too will remember what she did.
And what about God? Will her God not remember that supreme act of selfless freedom for all eternity?
Am I free? If someone suggested that I was not free I would bridle indignantly.
A simple test will tell me the truth. I know that if I were to give half of next months income to some worthy cause it would be a very good thing and would not greatly affect my financial situation. But am I free to do it? Try it and see.
That is what todays Gospel reading is about.
Of course the presumption is that, to quote Jesus of Nazareth, ‘when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.’