“We die before we die”


The following is an excerpt from a homily delivered by Fr. Patrick Reardon on Act. 5:1-11, the frightening account of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Fr. Patrick likes to deliver three-point sermons and below I have included the second point he makes in his homily. You can listen to the sermon in its entirety here.

“A second line of reflection is this. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira included a self seeking and rapacious attitude toward material things. In this respect it’s instructive to review the vocabulary Luke uses to describe their sin. Peter questions Ananias today, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and misappropriate for yourself the price of the land?” Now, the Greek verb for “misappropriate” here is nosphizein. This verb is found in the Greek Bible only four times. So it’s not a common word. Found only one other time in the New Testament.

But it is found back in Joshua 7:1 to describe the sin of Achan. Let me just read Joshua 7:1 – “But the children of Israel committed a great trespass and misappropriated anosphizanton the condemned things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took the condemned things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”

Now by using this identical verb to describe the sin of Ananias and Sapphira Luke likens their offense to that of ancient Achan in Joshua 7, to recall the circumstances of that offense. It has to do with the fall of Jericho. Now remember the fall of Jericho did not happen because the Israelite were great warriors. They just has very poor trumpeters. Remembers, Israel’s non-Union trumpeters walk around the city seven times and the walls fall down….. When the Lord delivered the city of Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the invading Israelites He specifically forbade the Israelites from seizing any  of the property of that city for their own use. For the Israelites all the property of Jericho was condemned. They were to take none of it. But Achan ben Carmi adopted what I call a broad and liberal view of the prohibition.  He decided since everything was condemend anyway he might as well have some of it. He had been explicitly forbidden to do this. His sin consisted in taking the spoils from Jericho for his family’s use. The Israelites, after all, did nothing to bring down the walls of Jericho except play the trumpet. It was the Lord’s work and the Israelites were to respect that fact by not taking spoils from the city for their own use. The Israelites were to receive what the Lord gave them but they were not to exploit the gift.

Achan was rapacious. And his rapacious spirit, repeated in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, was punished by death. The physical death symbolized what had already taken place in their souls. You see, we die before we die. A rapacious attitude towards material things, because it blinds man through the commands of God, was mortal to his spirit.”

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