Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Things That Matter Most

Reflections on the Readings
August 4, 2013 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C

The Things That Matter Most

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

Free From Stuff and Things

There's something magical about a heart unfettered; free to embrace simple joys and to imagine if it is possible to count one's blessings like one might count the stars in the sky! When the biggest thrill of a day is the laughter and love of family and friends, that's a good day. It is a life and heart filled with true treasures and a lifetime of memories that don't rust or corrode. For our life does not consist in the abundance of stuff and things. 

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. It deceives the heart and shrivels the soul. The intense and selfish power of greed fails to discern the difference between trinkets and treasures. God made us to be Temples of the Holy Spirit. Created in his image we need the life that comes to us from the good Spirit he wants us to have. You and I must always be careful what we set our heart on. For if we do not seek what is above we will be imprisoned here below. We whom the Father made to be free were never meant for enslavement to greed.

Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." The rich man in today's Gospel made a fatal mistake. He turned inward and wretchedness and selfishness ate at his soul. The crops he stored in his bigger barns became a noose around his neck. He said to his soul, "Eat, drink, and be merry!" Those words became a death sentence. Stretching out on his Lazy Boy chair he lit a cigar and opened his check book to make sure it was all there and closed his heart. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

In many places in our world a fresh water well is vital to the survival of the tribe. For Christmas one year we bought some ducks through an organization to provide a family with duck eggs to eat. Community food banks and second hand clothing stores all rely on our generosity. America wastes about 40% to 50% of all food harvested per year. An executive told me one time that bringing lunch to work rather than eating out would save about $30,000 over the span of a career. The old adage, waste not, want not, comes to mind.

The rich man in todays parable saw his success only in terms of personal advancement. His heart grew blind to his real need and to real living. What mattered most was within his power to do. Instead, his soul began to suffocate because he no longer breathed the air of heaven. As we hear in today's second reading: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." 

Our True Mission and Treasure - If You Choose to Accept It

The breath of God in us is the Holy Spirit who raises us to know Christ and helps us to see with the eyes of Jesus. Christian faith reminds us that this world is not our home; we are only passing through. But going through it we must have the inspiration of him who healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the sorrowing, and raised the dead. We are entrusted with the continuing mission of Jesus to bless the poor and those who are in need. There is no higher calling than to understand that we are here to bear one another's burden. Paul said, "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." We come to know the richness of our faith when we give it away. When we stop and pray for someone faith becomes a gift. Helping someone halfway around the world to dig a well for fresh water takes faith, faith that finds that water and gives a whole village enough drinking water for everyone. 

I tell my children to use their talents to refresh and to bless someone else. It matters little making a billion dollars with your talents for if you can't do it and treat it as a gift from God, that billion dollars will crush your soul. Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

We all know that we can't take our stuff and things with us when we die. Sometimes we act like maybe we can bring some of it along. Our attachment to our things shows how unaware we are how empty things are. A house is a necessity but it is still a thing. Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you." 

Paul reminds us that Christ is our life. And when he comes again, then will we have a place with him in glory. We won't be stopping by to pick up our stuff and things. For the things that really matter have to do with whether I loved God with everything in me, and my neighbor the way God loves my neighbor. That's what matters. That's what really matters. It's what really matters to God. So when we check out of this world may we be found in his likeness, renewed in his presence, and hear him say, "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord."

That's what really and truly matters most! Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at:   Visit him at:

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