From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
August 1 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” How close to home does this hit for us? Our society teaches us the importance of possessions and the need to pursue them for both our desires and our ‘security.’ Not just material possessions, but influence, knowledge and power as well. Anything that feeds our self-importance and makes us feel relevant! But no, Qoheleth tells us, everything is filled with futility and emptiness. Nothing has any final worth or meaning. Everything is for nothing! Why live??
If the world events of recent years have reminded us of anything, it is that life is short. From the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, violence in our cities, horrific mass shootings, tornados, fires and floods – we are reminded of the temporary nature of life here on earth. Everything can change in an instant, and that which seemed so important and precious, suddenly is gone. As the gospel remind us, you do not know the time or the hour. Looking at the foolishness of greed, Mark Twain noted, “There is no sense in being the richest man in the cemetery.” Our readings point to the foolishness of pursuit of earthly riches. Jesus tells us that our possessions and accomplishments will not benefit us on judgment day – particularly if they get in the way of doing God’s will. When we get wrapped up in our pursuit of earthly treasures, we lose sight of the heavenly ones. We spend our time preparing for our future – our retirement, when the reality is that our true focus should be on our eternal future – our salvation. Death is not fair, but it does not have to be final!
St. Paul tells us that a baptized person has a reason to live. When we are baptized, we become sharers in the life of Christ. We reaffirm that each time we come forward to receive Christ in the Eucharistic feast. Since we are sharers in the life of Christ, St. Paul tells us, we have to live accordingly. We have to pursue heavenly concerns rather than earthly things. We have to root out and destroy the parts of us that are earthly. Do away with those things that don’t fit with our heavenly life with Christ. Our life should be a journey to God; to be the image of God that He has placed within us. With Jesus as our model, the definition of success changes. Rather than endlessly pursuing earthly treasure, we begin to pursue conversation and relationship with Christ. We seek relationship with others that we might be the presence of Christ to them and find his presence in them.
If we focus on heaven and eternity, as much as if not more than our earthly existence, then our perspective on what constitutes success changes. The question is, what are we working for – today or tomorrow? The goal of life is to be eternally happy, not temporarily happy. Without God all life is meaningless. But with God, every aspect of our lives proclaim the reason for our creation: to know him, to love him, to serve him. Success is assuming Christ, it is a Christ centered family, it is caring for others as Christ cares for us!
As Vincentians, we are constantly dealing with people who have no possessions to speak of, and little hope of gaining many. Often, faith is all they have left and growing in their relationship with God gains greater meaning. In ministering to others, particularly the vulnerable and poor, we learn the wisdom of valuing people and relationships more than our ‘earthly possessions’ of things. They teach us the value and importance of trust in God, humility and hope. How do I allow those in poverty, to teach me the wisdom of valuing people, relationships and prayer? What are my treasures in life; and how do I want that to change?
Lord Jesus, help me to keep my focus always on you. Help me to grow in the virtue of simplicity, not desiring those things which get in the way of keeping my gaze on you. Through those I minister to, allow me to see the value of spiritual riches, and relationship to you through relationships with others. Help me to never lose sight of what is truly important in life for me and for those to whom I minister. We pray all of this in your name. Amen