A few fun stories…
A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in two's for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight point buck. "Where's Harry?""Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail.""You left Harry lying there, and carried the deer back?""A tough call," nodded the hunter, "but I figured no one is going to steal Harry." [sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/priorities.htm]
A young boy came to Sunday School late. His teacher knew that he was usually very prompt and asked him if anything was wrong. The boy replied no, that he was going fishing but his dad told him that he needed to go to church. The teacher was very impressed and asked the boy if his dad had explained to him why it was more important to go to church than to go fishing. To which the boy replied, "Yes he did. Dad said he didn't have enough bait for both of us".[dgchurch.org/jokes/n-p/priorities.htm]
And one more, just to be fair…
A 104-year-old building that had served as the priory and primary student residence of a small Catholic university was about to be demolished. As the wrecker's ball began to strike, one sensed the anxiety and sadness experienced by one of the older monks whose order had founded the college."This must be difficult to watch, Father," a professor stated. "The tradition associated with that building, the memories of all the students and monks who lived and worked there. I can't imagine how hard this must be for you.""It's worse than that," the monk replied. "I think I left my iPhone in there."[adapted from cybersalt.org/clean-jokes/priory-priority]
What do these all have in common? Priorities.
The Gospel today presents us with some interesting teachings. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” It kind of seems a little too simplistic, though, doesn’t it? Are we really to be totally unconcerned with thing like eating? Jesus mentions the birds in the sky, but if birds don’t eat they do die—and of course the same for us. But as with the rest of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, what He’s really calling us to is a new way of being—and this way of being has its priorities. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon [stuff].” “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
We all need to eat. We all need clothes. And certainly those things don’t magically appear before us. But Jesus begs the questions: What is the center of our concern? What is our top priority? What is of ultimate importance to us? What is our final goal? What masters us and what are we a slave to? To say that nothing or no one masters us, or that we are slaves to nothing or to no one, is frankly to be in denial. None of us are completely self-determined or self-actualized. We’re not made to be that way. So what is it? What is it that has ultimate hold on us? Is it money, stuff, work, sports, pleasure, comfort? Or, is it God? There’s the temptation to believe that we can just slip God in there once the rest of the stuff is taken care of. But we could have all of the money and stuff and success and fun activities and time that there is to have, and then what? We can only have ONE final/ultimate/over-arching goal that we are striving for and working toward.
The special holy season of Lent is right around the corner, with Ash Wednesday just a few days away. Sometimes maybe we’re tempted to think of Lent as some kind of self-improvement period—like, “I want to lose 10 pounds this Lent.” Or maybe like it’s some kind of endurance test—“I didn’t drink pop all Lent. Boom. Crushed it!” But Lent is a time to refocus and reconsider our priorities. If you’re like me, we find that if we’re honest we maybe tend to seek other things first besides the Kingdom of God and besides a right/proper relationship with God. And it’s easy to say to ourselves, “Yeah, I should really work on that someday.” So it’s a blessing, really, for us to have a season like Lent to be intentional about this, even though it can be challenging. Do we get so caught up in things that we don’t make the time for prayer each day, that we don’t make time for Mass each Sunday; that we forget we have relationships that need nurturing or mending, that we’re to care for those in need, that we exist for the glory of God and the good of one another? Let’s commit to making this Lent a true time of refocus and transformation.
Friends, ultimately we have things that we need to take care of in life. But above all we must never forget the One who told His exiled people, “I will never forget you.” Our celebration of the Eucharist is the living remembrance of what God has done for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. He has given us everything, and in God alone is our soul at rest.
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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