Insuring Life on the Rock

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In late 1800s America, The Rock of Gibraltar became an iconic image for the newly formed life insurance industry. Prudential adopted it because, according to the company, “a century after the Great Siege, it was still the most famous fortress in the world.”

Gibraltar was actually the site of many great sieges over the centuries because of its strategic location and topographic features. Of this peninsula near the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea it was said that “whoever controls Gibraltar also controls the movement of ships into and out of the Mediterranean.” This “Rock” is virtually impossible to scale on its eastern or northern sides, and its south and west are surrounded by hundred-foot cliffs and steep slopes. Such topographical insurance “works to the advantage of the defender.”

That’s how faith’s assurance that Jesus is the Christ works. As Paul explains in this Sunday’s second reading to the Hebrews (Heb 7:23-28), the insurance Jesus offers mortals is the permanent and unassailable defense of a lifeline for anyone attempting to reach God. Because he remains forever, he’s always there to save those approaching God through him, interceding for them.

“It was fitting that we should have such a high priest,” Paul writes: “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.”

Christianity shares faith in Godly access with our Jewish brothers, whose insurance goes back to Moses. In Sunday’s first reading (Dt 6:2-6) we hear Moses enjoining us, “Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life.”

But insurance is as much about our home as it is our life, for what is life without a home to live in? That was the basis of Christ’s ministry. Several of his parables equate the Kingdom of God to a home whose unscalable walls and narrow entrance protect it from intruders.

In Luke 13:24, when someone asks about access, Jesus says “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’”

So in this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mk 12:28b-34), through one of the scribes who tried testing Jesus’ security system, the Lord gives us the access code to his Father’s house: his Father’s greatest commandments:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 
with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When the scribe demonstrates understanding that these keys are “worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” previously used to try gaining access to God’s home, Jesus tells him “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 

If your own home has a security system, you know that if you’re ever away and the security company notifies you of a breach, they will first ask you for the password to verify your claim to the property. In God’s security system, sharing those two keys to the kingdom with your neighbors is the essence of prudence and proves you’re getting closer and closer to the narrow gate of that Rock upon which our faith is built.

–Tom Andel

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