Sunday, July 31, 2016
of Ordinary Time
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
"All things are vanity!" we read in Ecclesiastes this week as our Scriptures warn us of the spiritual dangers of greed, possessions and worldly pleasures.
Ecclesiastes, with its exclamation points, decries "things" as selfish desires that suck dry our time and energy and leave us with nothing of lasting value.
Jesus' teaching in Luke's Gospel is more direct: "One's life does not consist of possessions," he says, then tells a parable about a rich man spending his time eating, drinking, being merry and storing up earthly treasure. But Jesus emphasizes there's no guarantee that treasure will be maintained after one dies.
Strangely, "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" has become a popular catchphrase used to encourage people to avoid worrying about life beyond here and now. But it carries a significantly different message for those who believe in a deeper existence in relationship with God.
My friend Susan is one such believer whose radical rejection of material concerns showed me the greater joy that comes of a commitment to the things of God.
A single mother with a successful career as a professional editor, Susan had built a comfortable life for herself and her daughter. She owned a nice home on several acres of property.
I met her at a crucial time in her life. We were together on her first ever mission trip among the poor. I could see Susan following God's urging as she daily searched for the meaning of this experience in her life.
A few years later, she joyfully told me her daughter was expecting a baby. Then everything changed for Susan.
Her grandchild had multiple disabilities that brought enormous challenges to the young family.
Susan didn't think twice as she took early retirement so she could help care for her granddaughter. She managed the consequent financial pinch by selling her home and most of her furniture and accumulated possessions.
She misses none of them, because Susan was changed years earlier among the poor when she discovered the deeper, lasting things of God's life.
Now she relishes the abiding pleasures of being an essential part of her daughter's family and watching her granddaughter progress and thrive every day.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.