Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Sir 5:1-8 / Mk 9:41-50
Everyone will be salted with fire. [Mk 9:49]
Today’s echo reminds me that everyone has to go through times of trial and sacrifice; we wouldn’t have strength of character if we didn’t. It’s not exactly fun, but it is arguably necessary. There are any number of examples in modern American society of what happens when someone is never exposed to any sort of difficulty.
Interestingly enough, that ties in with another verse from today’s readings: Do not rely on deceitful wealth, for it will be no help on the day of wrath. [Sir 5:8]. In today’s society, sometimes it seems like money can buy all sorts of comforts and immunities, but any American who’s following the Michael Cohen testimony is seeing an example of a situation where, in the end, wealth didn’t mean a thing. Regardless of the outcome, he’s going to be spending time in prison and will never work in his chosen profession again.
The message here for me, on a personal level, is similar. One of my mental triggers is financial insecurity, and right now I’m facing a good bit of that as a result of my job transition. There is some cushion, but not as much as I’d thought there would be, and I’ve recently spent nights lying awake worrying about money.
It’s easy for my faith to waver when I’m under fire, particularly when it’s a result of something that will trigger me the way financial insecurity does. That hardly makes me unique among human beings, but it does suggest why I might be thinking about it right now. I don’t want my faith to waver as a result of something so temporal and worldly as finances. I don’t want to be separated from God. And the thing that terrifies me the most is that I may very well be — in fact, am probably — doing it to myself.
This is why, in the first reading, Ben Sira warns against reliance on anything but God. In the second reading, Jesus warns against retaining anything that might keep you from God and goes on to point out that trials (using a metaphor of salt) are necessary; and that it’s better to be damaged than to be damned.
I can actually take a bit of comfort from that, since I am definitely damaged if I draw comfort from financial security.
The question is: can I keep the damage from damning me, by looking past that tendency and relying on God?