Monday, July 26, 2010

The True Measure of the Good Life

Reflections on the Readings
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 1, 2010 - Year C
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins

The True Measure of the Good Life

"Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." - Jesus

Do you remember the colorful character named Max in the movie, The Sound of Music?  

He comes across somewhat as a sponge; soaking up everything he can that belongs to others.  He is quite free in expressing his delight in being around rich folks.  His attitude toward riches and rich people is revealing when he says, "I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I'm with them!" 

Max wrongly believes riches are the true measure of life.

In the first reading, the preacher declares, "All things are vanity!"  The toil and anxiety of heart expended to acquire wealth is vanity.  Why?  If it's done as if in this life only we have hope in Christ, life becomes dreary and burdensome; days filled with sorrow and grief and nights spent tossing and turning. 
Acquisition and positioning, climbing the ladder, stepping on anyone who gets in the way of what you want makes for saucy reality TV; but beware of all covetousness our Lord warns.  Why?  Because a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.  Many a career is strewn along the way with those who left God out, pursuing the good life according to the measure of the spirit of this age.

We are truly rich if at daybreak we invite the kindness of God into our heart and our work.  Only this disposition gives us the wisdom to understand that a lifetime is only as a watch in the night; in this light do we realize only God can prosper the work of our hands.  In this way is the joy of the Lord present in all of life's days; the gracious care of God our daily bread.

The gospel reading begins with a family inheritance dispute between two brothers.  One of the brothers asks the Lord to arbitrate for his cause, thinking our Lord will take up for him.  Two things are immediately evident.  An unnecessary fracture between the two brothers has occurred.  Second, unless the brothers give up their covetous attitudes, the love of money will only create more hurt, more blame, more division.  

The rich man who trusts in his riches without regard for God meets with a forceful rebuke.  God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"  Dear brothers and sisters, life is more than food and the body more than clothing! Coveting is idolatry because it is replacing God with stuff and things as the most important things in life.  Of course, nothing is further from the truth, for what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?

Godliness with contentment is great gain, but the sin of coveting ignores this truth.  Coveting blurs our vision of life and its brevity and of the final judgment.  Naked we come into this world and when we stand before the Lord, nothing will be hidden from his sight.

Let us come closer to him who for our sake became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich.  He gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Through him we are to receive all things and each other with thanksgiving.  Christ is all in all.  If we remember our life is hidden with Christ in God, we will be rich with the presence of God in our soul.  

Truly we are the richest folks in town.  As we have freely received, let us freely give; because we want for others what we have so graciously been given.  This is the true measure of the good life!


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