C Cycle – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
This week has been one where I have been bombarded with emotions. Someone I have been blessed to know has died. Another person has celebrated a birthday surrounded by friends and family. My wife and I have moved and are struggling to find a new home in a market that is lacking in what is being offered. Someone close to me is dealing with a life changing situation which will impact the rest of his life.
Paul tells us to focus on things above not of this earth. How can we follow that advice when we are bombarded daily with things of this earth? Is it wrong to love and to dream of life with another to share that love? Is it wrong to go to college, work hard to get good grades while preparing yourself for a rewarding career? We could go on about the things which motivate us as we seek happiness in this life.
The inspired words of God we hear today were not intended to condemn hard work, or the desires of the heart nor the building wealth. Have you ever heard a proverb praising laziness or warning us about loving another? The truth is the scriptures praise those who prepare and who work hard. The scriptures are full of stories and advise about honesty, steadfastness, single mindedness, hard work and love.
In the parable of the talents God praises the servants who multiply the talents (money) given to them. It was the servant who does nothing with what God had given him. In the parable of the virgins with their lamps, we are warned about not paying attention or doing our own thing while we are seeking the Lord.
This parable today is a challenge to us about the temptations our desires open us to while we ardently want to be doing God’s will. While I was preparing for this homily my mind went to the joys I have experienced in this life. My wife, my children, my grandchildren. I had a successful career and achieved things I never dreamed possible as a child.
Much of what I achieved in my career was motivated by goals this parable warns us not to allow into our minds or hearts. I am grateful for the faith of strangers and friends whose love of God challenged all my desires. I have learned from them how we can never underestimate how our faith can be redirected by people who understand and live the lesson found in this parable.
I have been trying to remember the exact words St. Augustine used when he spoke on this topic of wealth being the cause of all evil, however his exact words escape me. Even the internet failed me when I tried to find those words written long ago so you will have to rely on my own interpretation of his take on this topic. He basically said loving the wrong thing above God is not only about love. Whenever we do something or love something more than God it is no longer love but it is Idolatry. This is exactly what Paul is talking about in the Epistle today when he says “greed is idolatry.
The gospel parable is a challenge to us today to examine in our hearts “what is it we love?” Do we love the self-gratification and the esteem of others by excelling in school? Are you seeking the love of the perfect mate you have dreamed of all your life, expecting that person to fulfill all your desires? Are we seeking the perfect blend of job, family, possessions expecting those things to satisfy the desires of our hearts? None of these things are sinful in themselves but they will and do lead us to place them above God in our priorities.
Our desires are not sinful, but our desires can be warped by the enemy of God who seeks to draw us away from God. The desire of the heart to be loved, to be held and to give yourself to another in covenant love is in God’s plan. That desire leads us to see to be united to another and to love and cherish that person for the rest of our life. Yet, that same desire can be warped by the enemy driving us for self-gratification without any regard for the other. That warped desire destroys trust in all involved and in the end causes us to not trust God’s love.
The desire to grow professionally leads to increased wealth which again is not sinful until it is the motivating factor causing us to want more. We seek things to make us happy and, in the end, we only want more, and we never find that happiness we seek. Instead, we trample on others to advance and we miss out on building relationships which give us joy, love and peace. Instead of finding freedom in our wealth we become slaves who only work without ever enjoying the fruit of our labor.
Many of our desires are within us because God created them in us to drive us to love and to serve others not ourselves. Not to have these desires is not normal and to try to suppress them can do more harm in us. The key is for us to learn to use them for a higher purpose than to eat, drink and be merry – without regard for others.
The real issue this, are we so focused on those things instead of God. Even if we convince ourselves we are not that focused on them, we must examine our hearts and seek the wisdom of standing apart from them and ask ourselves one question. Are these things leading us to a closer relationship with God or are they leading us to spend more time devoted to them and not allowing time for God in our lives beyond the few hours we devote to ministry and the time we spend at mass each week