13 Nov 2016
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
If you want to get along, then everybody just “mind your own business.” That’s basically what Saint Paul says. If you want to get along, then everybody just mind your own business. And there’s a lot of truth in that idea; of course, it has to be nuanced a little bit, too.
I mean, someone could say: “This is how I live my Catholic faith, so don’t try to tell me I’m doing it wrong, or that I should be doing it this way or that way. My faith is fine; mind your own business.” Or I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “Let’s just agree to disagree,” which is another way of saying, “I’ll mind my business and you can mind yours.” But these attitudes, these ways of thinking, don’t really reflect what Saint Paul is saying.
Again, he says: If you want to get along, then mind your own business. In other words, minding our own business shouldn’t lead us into isolation and division; it should lead us toward “getting along,” toward community, toward Christian friendship, respect, and so on.
If you think about it, the last time we wished others would mind their business, chances are we felt judged or maybe squashed by those other people. And so, Saint Paul could be saying, “Don’t judge others. If you want to get along, then stop judging others.” Saint Paul could also be saying, “Don’t walk all over your neighbors. If you want to get along, then stop crushing others’ spirits.”
That’s what Saint Paul means when he says, “Mind your own business.” And so, you can see how that might help people to get along: if we stop judging others, and if we give others basic respect or freedom. But there’s more to it. After all, Saint Paul isn’t writing to just a community of people. He’s not writing a book on “how to win friends and influence people.” He’s writing to the Thessalonians who were a community of faith, as we are a community of faith. And our “business” is to be about the business of God. That’s where Saint Paul is taking us.
Now, the gospel today from Luke, and the writings of the Prophet Malachi point us toward the ideas of the Final Judgment and the End Times. And what we need to bring to mind here is the image of Jesus cleansing the Temple, because these things are related: the End Times, Final Judgment, and the cleansing of the Temple. They’re all about God coming to his dwelling place—remember, the community of believers (the Church) is the Temple of the Holy Spirit—it’s about God coming to his dwelling place and taking possession of what is his.
That’s what the End Times are: it’s God reclaiming us, taking us to himself in heaven. That’s what Jesus cleansing the Temple is about: it’s God reclaiming his dwelling place—while, at the same time, cleaning house. And that’s what the Final Judgment is: it’s God “cleaning house” so he can reclaim what is his. They’re all related.
As we know, when Jesus came to the Temple he threw out the people selling the animals; he threw out the moneychangers, and told them to stop making his Father’s house a marketplace. In other words, when Jesus came into his dwelling place, the Temple, he found people not minding their own business. Those people were judging others. And they were making it hard for others to fulfill the Law of God. They weren’t minding their own business, and they weren’t minding the business of God (even though they thought they were). That day when Jesus walked through the gate was “Judgment Day” for the Temple.
And Jesus was upset because, among other reasons, those people had made themselves God. After all, God is the only Judge of people. And when our faith is tested, it’s God alone who provides the test or the obstacle. So what were those people doing in the Temple who were judging others and putting obstacles in front of others? What were they doing? They were taking the place of God . . . which was not their business to do.
When Saint Paul says, “Mind your own business,” he’s saying, “Let God be God, and you be you. Let God take care of what’s his to take care of, and you take care of what’s yours to take care of.” When we hear Saint Paul say this in his letter to the Thessalonians, it’s almost an echo of what Jesus said when he was cleansing the Temple. Saint Paul is trying to help us—even today, thousands of years later—he’s still trying to help us get ready for something to come.
In just another couple of weeks we’ll be into the season of Advent. And in that first week of Advent there’ll be a parish-wide retreat; a time of prayer and discernment precisely about the “business” God has given us to do. You know, it’s easy to say, “Let God take care of what’s his to take care of, and you take care of what’s yours to take care of.” But it isn’t always easy to know exactly what God has given us to do. And so, we need time to step back and really consider that.
If you think about a lot of major life decisions, they might involve some amount of prayer and discernment. For instance, when a couple gets pregnant, it’s not up to them to decide whether or not to have the baby; God already decided that—that’s God’s business, and God decided that this child would be for this couple. But it’s up to the couple to raise the child in a good way—as co-workers with God; that’s their business, to cooperate with God and to be instruments of his grace and love. But, exactly how to do that . . . well, that takes some prayer and discernment.
Another instance where we might have to be careful to “mind our business” is with the image we have of ourselves, and how we love ourselves. Now, I could wish that I had better athletic skills, or that I could be more outgoing and gregarious. But that’s not who God created me to be. Who am I say that I wasn’t made quite right? Last time I checked, I wasn’t the Creator of the Universe—none of us is. It’s not our business to wish we could be someone else. That’s God’s business to be “creative.” It’s our business simply to be thankful for who we are.
And along that same line, it isn’t our business to judge others or to deny them any of God’s mercy. That’s what Pope Francis meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He wasn’t giving humanity a “pass;” he was simply noting that it’s not his business to judge; that’s God’s business. Francis’ “business” and ours is simply to be merciful in imitation of God. We don’t judge who’s worthy to receive God’s mercy and who isn’t—even God himself doesn’t do that, because he wants everybody to know his Divine Mercy.
Again, we hear Saint Paul tell us: “If you want to get along, then mind your own business.” Just like Jesus in the Temple, he’s trying to help us “clean house” so that something new can come. Exactly what that new thing is, I don’t know. We know it has a name: Saint Clare Parish. Of course, further down the road the ultimate “new thing” we’re waiting for is heaven. And what is heaven, what is the ultimate parish, but a place where everybody loves another (as Jesus commanded).
I know, that sounds a little “Pollyannaish,” maybe a little too saccharine and sweet. But, then again, that’s what God has in mind for us—for all his people, everywhere, today; and also then at the End Times when his dwelling place is finally cleansed, and the pride of Adam and Eve is undone. God has in mind an existence where everybody gets along; who are we to judge if that sounds corny or not? That’s not our business.
Our business is to enjoy the vision God gives us, and then to do our best to see that vision become a reality. And it begins by letting God do what is his to do, and by us doing what is ours to do—no more and no less.