Fr. Francis Scaria
Regarding the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:16 we read, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” What follows in the Word of God is what makes the Lord say this: “For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). Then the Lord also extends an invitation saying, “ Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.” (Rev 3:18-19) It is evident that the reason for being lukewarm towards God is one’s feeling of being self-sufficient. According to the Word of God, even being cold is better than being lukewarm.
This piece of the Word of God is applicable to so many people. We have become so self-sufficient, we forget others and even God. We need one another and we depend on one another. Most importantly we need God. Many of us through our behaviour and activities seem to assert that we do not need God. This is what makes us “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”.
Biblical message to every believer is to shun every feeling of self-sufficiency. In Acts 17:28, St. Paul reiterates, “in him (God) we live and move and have our being”. It only shows our thorough dependence on Him. St. Paul reminds us : “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor 3:5). How then can I claim to be self-sufficient? It is a form of pride, rather coronation of pride. The Word of God is clear about what awaits such people : “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18).
The fallacy of human self-sufficiency is exposed by Jesus in the parable of the rich fool (cf. Lk 12:16-21). ‘Fool’ is the name that Jesus gives to the man who claims to be self-sufficient. The Lord was asking Paul to replace his self-sufficiency with God-sufficiency when he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
Self-sufficiency is a temptation of the modern man; it is evidently creeping even into the lives of those who are called upon to live God-sufficiency and to instruct God’s people about the same. It is a sin floating in the rivers of comfort and affluence. Many of us enjoy living on the banks of those rivers forgetting the Son of Man who had “nowhere to lay his head” (cf. Lk 9:58) and still claim to be his disciples.
This exactly what Israelites were warned about before they entered into the Promised Land. “Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, .... When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions.” (Deut 8:11-15)
Jesus tells us very emphatically, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Our world seems to be moving without God. Joseph and Mary looking for a place to give birth to Jesus found no place in Jerusalem; in the outskirts of Bethlehem they could find only a manger. This is typical of humanity’s sin of self-sufficiency and no room left for God. On the occasion of the twentieth World Youth Day at Cologne, Germany, in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, 21 August 2005, Pope Benedict XVI lamented : “In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him”.
Like those who built the tower of Babel, we too are often building our mansions without God, without wanting to acknowledge that such mansions are bound to perish in the near future. Worse still is the fate of those building them. Jesus questions: “what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mk 8:36) St. James makes his observations regarding this. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” (Jam 4:13-15). St. Paul too has a very practical piece of advice : “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom 12:3). We are in great need of God. We urgently need Him.
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