18th Sunday in OT (July 31, 2016)

18th Sunday in OT (July 31, 2016)

We have some wonderful, powerful (and challenging) readings today.  I was trying to think of an example/image/story to put with this, and the thing that kept going through my mind was a talk & prayer Amber DeMatte did at Catholic Youth Summer Camp.  She had a special stool to represent Jesus’ throne, but had props representing things that tend to take that place that only Jesus should sit—things like relationships, school/success, extracurricular activities, media, image.  These aren’t all bad things, but they can’t be seated on the throne that Jesus should occupy.

So there are some important questions for us all: To what do we commit ourselves? Where are our hearts? What is most important in life? Where do we find our fulfillment? 

The message of our Scriptures today isn’t that the things of the world are necessarily bad—it’s just that don’t last, and they aren’t—and can never be—a replacement for God (our ultimate good and ultimate end).  It’s about seeing things and placing things in their proper perspective, which is not always easy to do in the world that we live in.  The things that we chase after can end up grabbing ahold of us; the things that we look to store up can end up containing us; the things that we look to consume can indeed consume us.  St. Paul reminds us that Christ is to be the exclusive and determining force in everything; that He is our life, the truth of our existence.

Thinking of this, I’m reminded, too, of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, at the beginning of which he lays out what he calls “The First Principle and Foundation.”  There are some paraphrased versions out there which are less heady, but here it goes:
“The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.  All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.  It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.  To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.  Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.”

In the end it’s not so much about the having of things but how do we see them and what do we use them for.  Do we use our goods for good?  Sharing with those in some need?  Using the gifts God has given us to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to help others to come to know God, to build up the Kingdom within our families/parishes/communities, to grow as disciples together?

We know that there’s a lot of weariness and anxiety in the world today…perhaps even in our own minds and hearts.  Building bigger barns isn’t going to bring us the peace and security and meaning we’re ultimately searching for.  I actually think there’s a great freedom in this: that our life is to be hidden with Christ in God.

Here in the Eucharist, Christ comes to us in the humblest yet most intimate of ways.  

This Presence is our greatest treasure; it is the “source and summit” of our faith and life.  

It binds us together to the God who is above all.  We have not labored for it; it is a gift.  

And it calls us always to something more.