Now wait a minute. Why did I come here?

Tom Bartolomeo
24th Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Wisdom 9, 13-18a; Psalm 90;
hilemon 9-10,12-17; Luke 14, 25-33
Reproduced with Permission

"Now wait a minute. Why did I come here? Let me think." Have you ever gone somewhere, to another room or to another place and have forgotten why you came to where you are? Perhaps, you are following some ingrained routine and are so preoccupied with something that you lose your way. More than likely this happens when we are "busy" or so we say. So busy that the days of our lives sift through our fingers like sand. It may be we are obsessively compulsive - right in line with so many others pursuing so many things in the world, not realizing what John the Apostle wrote in one of his letters, that "all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world" and devoid of any lasting value. (John 2, 15-17). Saint John diagnosed this disease, "the pride of life" which consumes so many people and robs them of any lasting relationship with God. Even before the "good news" of Jesus Christ was proclaimed the philosopher Socrates recognized that "the unexamined life is not worth living," and his prized student Plato observed, "Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge." And for us where there is little or no understanding of God's ways there is little or nothing worth living for especially in Jesus Christ who is "the way, the truth and the life." We are just too busy with things in this world. What will it be immediately following this mass today? While exiting the church and saying, "Good morning, Father", we should ask, "Why did I come here? Let me think." Then, I hope, we will understand how infectious and obsessive "the pride of life" is.

Today's readings wonderfully illustrate this. In the Book of Exodus, for example, while the chosen people whom God has rescued from slavery in Egypt were out of sight and while God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments these former slaves reverted back to their old pagan ways, carousing and partying day and night worshiping some gold figurine. We would think, how bizarre, a "golden calf", but how different is that from partying, eating, drinking and exchanging personal gifts around a dead tree with lights strung on it. Merry Christmas! while atheists, agnostics and your run-of-the-mill heathens join in the celebration of themselves, not of a child born to die and take upon himself our ransom for "all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life," which Saint John described. Some would counter that they are innocent enough things, and I would say, not when they consume lives where there is no room for God as there literally was no room for Jesus on his birthday in Bethlehem. Our solemn celebrations today for many people are no longer holy days but holidays, Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts and Mardi Gras, "fat Tuesday", preceding Ash Wednesday and forty day of penance and the stations of the cross. It is ironic how these holidays keep us busy all year long beginning with New Year's Day, the Solemnity of the Mother of God, which so many neglect because they are involved with "all that is in the world" as Saint John observed.

Without repentance we remain "in the world." Consider the confession Saint Paul made to his spiritual son, Timothy, in his letter to him and how he had repented of his former way of life. "A blasphemer and a persecutor and [an] arrogant man," he confessed, after he was blinded by God and finally saw that he had "acted out of ignorance in my unbelief" in prosecuting Christians. Paul then acknowledged that his punishment was deserved. "I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance," he admitted. We, too, should look back on those chastisements we have borne in the world as merciful blessings that should make us stop and think, How did I come here? Perhaps, we would recognize how infected in the world we are and where it is taking us.

Finally, in the parable of the Prodical family, not just one son but two sons and their father as well - we are reminded that we are our brother's keeper, father and son, brother and brother. We are called to pro-actively care for, assist and admonish father, mother, brother and sister in their spiritual needs, or do we say, We should mind our own business? How did it happen in the parable that the father did not see his younger son's self indulgence or his older son's arrogance or his own neglect of their upbringing? Maybe it was all about getting ahead and not about getting along - consumed with work and the pursuit of wealth. For many today work and career take precedence over family, again, ironically arguing I must first make my place in the world in order to support my family and myself in a world where there is never too much. "The lust of the eyes and the pride of life" demand it. Somehow the sin of covetousness eludes us. It is the last of the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not covet . . ." which leads to greed, envy and a number of other vices. Think of how many people this affects, gamblers, workaholic and others and contrary to the first beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit".

What we lose in this world may be a loving God's remedy to draw us out of this world and into his world. In the end the father in the parable who lost half his wealth won back his son. Was it worth the price? I think so. In our country we are now set on a long path of losses in this world which if we accept them will bring us eternal wealth. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth," Jesus taught, "where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. (Matthew 6, 19-21). I can think of no greater wisdom that parents can teach their children.