Fake News

James 5: 7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11

You can’t seem to turn on any news these days without hearing something about “fake news”. There seems to be this blurring of lines between reality and some fictional world that is created, probably for a variety of reasons. Of course, there is the making up of a story, which is simple for most of us if we think about it. But there’s also the reality of people believing it, that we’ve crossed a line where we start to think that the “fake news” is real and reality is somehow lying to us or is wrong. It’s not a great line to be crossing for any of us and in many ways shows a lack of depth on the part of our culture and society that we can no longer discern these aspect of our lives and the world.

I’ve been thinking, though, that this is not something new. We’re all familiar with the famous Christmas letters that we often joke about. It’s often us presenting to others some kind of illusion of perfection of our families, telling others how we think things should be rather than the real real, such as the suffering and struggles that make up who we are as well. We become so dissatisfied with our reality that we have to resort to our own “fake news”, often to avoid our own grief, our anger, our dissatisfaction with life many times and our own “fake news” becomes a way to avoid our reality. But, we also all know, it eventually catches up to us when the illusions we construct begin to crumble before us. You see, this God we encounter is one that deconstructs what we construct in order to recreate us into something new, into the Kingdom as it continues to unfold within and beyond us.

It’s where John the Baptist finds himself today as we find him in prison. He’s a very different person this week than the one we encountered last week. Remember, he was the one down in the Jordan baptizing people. He was chastising the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. He was going after Herod for his marriages. He was preaching this rebellious messiah that was to come to overturn the government and religious leaders. Yet, today, he’s somewhat somber. Of course, we would as well when we know our lives are nearing the end as he’s about to be beheaded.

For all this time, John was preaching one message and now we find him today asking whether Jesus is really the one. This entire narrative that John has been preaching is no longer the reality that he had hoped for. Jesus isn’t who he was supposed to be in the eyes of John. John thought Jesus should be someone else. His own narrative that he constructed is now beginning to crumble as he faces the reality of his own life through his own mortality. His idea of Jesus and his idea of God no longer works and once again God is opening John up for something new, despite being at the end of his life. The more narrow our vision of what we think things should be is a good indicator that it’s more about building our own kingdom rather than allowing the Kingdom to unfold within and beyond us. It’s us wanting to control and for John, he now finds all that being deconstructed to be recreated into something new. It’s what we prepare ourselves for at Christmas, the breaking in of God.

But it takes a great deal of patience on our part for that breaking in, just as we await the birth of a child. We hear that from James in today’s second reading. He’s writing to the poor who are losing hope as they find themselves being oppressed by the rich. They too are paying the price for a narrative that the rich are putting together about the poor and, like any of us, are quick to judge. As much as James tells them to be patient with the unfolding of the Kingdom but he’s also warning them about judging the other. Our judgments are also part of the “fake news” that we create about others, not just ourselves. However, all those judgments say much more about ourselves and our own dissatisfaction. James isn’t telling them to allow themselves to be walked upon by the rich. Rather, he’s telling them not to become what it is that they hate by doing what’s being done to them.

As we move into the final days of the Advent season and continue to seek the breaking in of the Kingdom, we are challenged to see where we allow our own “fake news” to take hold of our lives, avoiding the reality of our own lives. We do it individually and we do it communally. Certainly the internet has escalated all of it but it is something that we have always had to deal with in our lives, constructing our own narrative and building our own kingdom often to avoid reality. God can only meet us in our reality and wants to meet us in our reality. It’s in the healing of our hearts, the seeking of love, mercy, forgiveness, and freedom that opens our hearts to the breaking in of the Kingdom.

We all know what it’s like to be John and wanting things to be something other than they are, but at this very moment, on the Third Sunday of Advent, God desires to meet us where we are. Not where we think we should be or who we think we should be. That’s our own “fake news” narrative. But where we have allowed ourselves to be imprisoned and made ourselves smaller than we really are. The Kingdom is vast and wide. It’s that Kingdom we desire and it’s that Kingdom that we are being invited into being broken into our lives and world at this very moment, into the reality we are being called to embrace.

Richly Poor

Luke 16: 19-31

The one side-effect or even shadow side of our addiction to the capitalistic culture which consumes us on all levels and aspects of our lives, is that it’s opened the door for us to demonize the poor. It becomes easy to blame them for their own problems and somehow believe that they are envious of others and simply want to be rich. It’s the crazy stuff that we tell ourselves and what our culture tells us. Yet, all it does is, in the words of Jesus today, is create this chasm that seems to grow wider and wider. Really, though, the more we separate ourselves from the poor we separate ourselves from the interior poverty of our soul that always seems to long for the fill of the pod. The external reality of separation of rich and poor is a reflection of the chasm that often exists within our own lives and souls, when we demonize that part of us and try to fill it with something other than God.

But here’s the thing. There is that longing for more in our lives that makes us all the same, whether rich or poor or anyone in between. It’s how we fill that desire for more that often determines the quality of our lives, which brings us to this Gospel today. It should be hard for us to hear today as it was for the Pharisees to whom Jesus is addressing it. Last week we heard the story of the steward and today the rich man and Lazarus, but in between the two are a few verses that describes the reaction of the Pharisees. Luke tells us that they love money and that they are growing weary of this Jesus and the threat that he seems to be bringing to their lives and this perceived power, especially through their love of money as Luke tells us.

So this is where Jesus picks up and begins to turn things on their head. Keep in mind that this is the continuation of the mercy parables of Luke’s gospel so it is first and foremost about who God really is. It’s also important to remember, that like many people today, there was this belief that somehow the more riches and stuff I had the more I was in favor with God. We even use that language about our wealth and belongings! If we believe that, we miss the point and are off mark on God. So the reversals begin at the start of the story. The one who would have been known by name because of his status and wealth becomes nameless and yet the one who is poor and has nothing, living out of his poverty, becomes named, Lazarus. Right from the beginning the pharisees would start to squirm.

But then there’s also the reversal of fortune. The pharisee thinks, thinks, that he is “living in heaven” because of his wealth, not only because of his status but because of his accumulation of wealth. But in the end, it’s him that his tormented. The more he separates himself from the man sitting outside his door, the more he tries to fill his pocket with wealth. His own deep longing is being separated from his life and the external world, and so as much as he thinks he’s “living in heaven” it’s really an experience of hell. He’s not living from the place of poverty but from his place of wealth. Jesus isn’t trying to scold him in some way. Rather, he’s inviting him to recognize his own poverty and to live from that place which can never be filled by what we consume but only by allowing ourselves to be consumed by God. It’s the novel of the story and to begin to recognize that Lazarus is me and Lazarus is you.

If we find ourselves demonizing in some way the poor and blaming them for our problems, well, the reality is, it says more about me than it does them and the chasm only grows wider and deeper in our lives. The story is not meant to spook us or even distress us, unless we have become blinded by our own wealth and stuff that we have accumulated. All that does is leave us with a false sense of security and something we can hold onto. Jesus, today, is inviting us to allow these realties to reflect one another, that by the way we treat others, in particular the poor, we are moving to a place where we can be more in touch with our own poverty and to begin to live our lives from the place.
There is nothing that is ever going to fill that longing and that desire for more in our lives. Yet, the entire capitalistic culture is rooted int that very reality so I can tell myself that I can’t live without something. It’s rooted in our weakness into fearing that place of poverty within ourselves, the Lazarus within ourselves, and the more I separate myself from the longing in my soul, the more I feel like I need something to fill it. It’s never going to be filled by something. We can consume all we want and the chasm grows. What we’re called to do is as it is with the Pharisees, to accept that that’s who we are, that there is this longing and desire for more within me. Rather than consuming ourselves allow ourselves to be consumed, not by the culture, but by the One who creates the longing, the God of love, mercy, and forgiveness. The more we do, the more we no longer need to feed the rich man but rather accept that Lazarus is me and Lazarus is you, and then, and only then, will our lives be rich and fulfilled.

Family Trials

Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12: 1-4; Luke 12: 49-53

There are no mincing words in today’s gospel. It seems as if there’s no good news as Jesus speaks of division among family, if you believe good news is simply keeping the peace. We must, though, put it in context. For the past several weeks, probably back to the Good Samaritan in mid-July, Jesus has been, in one way or another, attacking different institutions. He doesn’t always do it by judgment directly, but rather through these rather provocative statements and stories which keep inviting the disciples into deeper understanding. He goes after the political authorities. He certainly goes after the religious institution of his day. So why not go down to the most basic of institutions that we all are a part of, family.

The time of Jesus was no different than our own. Institutions, including family, are about keeping the peace rather than seeking peace. Now we all know what that means. It’s about avoiding problems out of fear. There always seems to be the “elephant in the room” that no one is allowed to talk about out of fear how it is going to be seen by the rest of the world. It’s about avoiding these conflicts to grow and become more integrated people; it’s about keeping the peace as we have determined and anyone that tries to disrupt that is so often ostracized.

It should be no surprise to any of us that it would filter up into these larger institutions that we are a part of in this world. We have seen it in the Church over the years and the abuse scandal. It became about protecting the institution rather than the people. We certainly see it with our political parties. You even hear them say it that it’s for the party and not about the good of the country. Institution first before the people that are being impacted by it all. Even if you read any of the DOJ report on Baltimore this week you would have seen more of the same. It’s about protecting the institution rather than the good of the people. These realities are the same realities of the time of Jesus, but over these weeks he’s trying to move the disciples to see differently and hear differently. Today, he takes it to the core, the family, where so much of it begins and we learn our learned responses to dealing with life that we so often have to let go of in order to grow and become the prophetic voices of the disciples.

No one does it better than Jeremiah that we hear in today’s first reading. Who’s he up against? Political class. He’s facing the princes of his day who want him dead. Jeremiah has the conscience the size of the earth and doesn’t always know what to do with it. He struggles greatly trying to be faithful to the word of God in his life. He allows the word to change his heart and then struggles when he finds himself in these situations where he has to speak truth and raise consciousness of the leaders. So what do they do with him? He’s thrown into the cistern. He too is ostracized. They don’t try to reconcile the problems and seek the good. Rather, they blame him and try to get rid of what they think is the problem. King Zedekiah is thrown in the middle of it and is left with a choice. Is he going to keep the peace with the princes or side with Jeremiah. It’s so often advocates for the prophets that frees them and that’s the case for Jeremiah. He’s freed despite the danger that he poses to these institutions because of the interior freedom that Jeremiah continues to seek. That’s the peace that Jesus seeks for his disciples and us.

But there is a great price for living differently in that way. The writer of Hebrews speaks of the suffering that one must undergo in life with Jesus being the model for his disciples. He really isn’t about keeping the peace as we have come to know. Rather, he desires a deeper peace. It’s messy. It’s hard. It comes with great suffering and great cost with the possibility about being thrown into the cistern, sinking in the mud. But when we allow our hearts to be changed by the word and we grow as adults it comes with great freedom as it does for Jeremiah.

Unfortunately, we too continue to live at a time when prophetic voices are silenced. We don’t want to hear it on all levels of institution. We live in great fear so often and sell fear because it becomes the norm. Rather than confronting the real problems that this city faces, this country faces, and this world faces, we try rather to keep the peace and protect something that isn’t even real in the first place! We strive for our own interest rather than seeking a more just society by entering into the messiness of our lives, just as Jesus does for us.

As we continue in prayer today, we pray not only for families that do face great divisions but the divisions that exist on all levels of our lives. Rather than seeking to keep the peace we must enter into the difficult conversations to seek reconciliation in our lives and world. It begins at the most basic level of our lives, the family. We can’t expect change on greater levels if we’re not willing to do it in our own lives. Otherwise we simply blame and continue this cycle of victimhood all at the price of human lives. We pray for peace, not in the way we have come to know, but in the peace that Jesus desires for us; that our hearts may be opened to these words and change the way we see, hear, and love so that the kingdom that Jesus preaches may become a reality, a kingdom of eternal peace.

How Can This Be

Deut 4: 32-34; 39-40; Romans 8: 14-17; Matthew 28: 16-20

For the better part of twenty years now, I have spent a great deal of my time studying about God, the theology. The one, and maybe only thing, that I am sure of is that the more I think I know and do learn the more that remains unknown. Yet, it becomes this constant chase to soak it all up, as much as I can, into something that I know I can never fully know, especially in the form of knowledge. It’s like being in this space somewhere between the known and unknown, all at the same time. We often joke on this feast that the best thing we can say is that it’s a mystery; and that’s true, but also more than that, it is Mystery, and all we can do is fall into Mystery over and over again.

Now from the time we are little kids, we are fed knowledge about this God we call Mystery. I dare say, at times it feels like we never quite move from there. Yet, our adult life should be more about letting that idea and even that knowledge of God go in order that we may experience a deeper knowledge of God, something that lies within, this Mystery. Quite honestly, that name God carries with it so much baggage, our baggage, that Mystery frees us up to something bigger and yet so close, we can taste it. It takes a great deal of faith to move to this place in our lives and if you need a simple definition of faith it is simply, and yet quite difficult, to be able to sit with the tension between the known and unknown and allowing ourselves to fall into the unknown mystery we call God.

It’s where people Israel find themselves as the writer of Deuteronomy expresses to them today in such poetic fashion. They know the God that has been present in their lives. The writer mentions how God was there in the fashioning of the world. God was present in creation and the creation of man. God was present in the toughest of times, lost in the wilderness of Egypt. That God was ever-present and will always be, but at the same time, God tries to reveal Godself now in a different way, a deeper way to people Israel, and they are being invited as we are on this feast, to fall into Mystery. Think of it this way. I can never fully know myself. You can never fully know yourself and you can’t fully ever know your spouse or others, we are always being invited into deeper mystery, into the unknown of our own lives and the lives of others, satisfied with not always knowing.

The disciples are in the same boat at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel. They have known Jesus and have experienced them, and yet, in a flash, he’s once again being revealed in a new way and in deeper understanding in their lives. It’s the way they continue to grow and grow into the community that we heard and read about all during the Easter Season. They know what they know but they’re always being invited into what they don’t know, into a love affair with Mystery. I think of the words of Mary as the Spirit descends upon her, “How can this be…?” That’s an openness to the beyond of what we know in God, in Mystery, the falling into the unknown and this Mystery we call God. Over and over again, we must let go of what we know, crucified in some sense, growing deeper into the adoption that Paul speaks of to the Romans today. There is something deeper that unites us beyond our ability to reason and know, and that’s this Mystery that is transcendent and yet so close that it’s beyond words or understanding. Can we sit in that tension long enough in our own lives to fall into Mystery and to have the dumbfounded mind of Mary, “How can this be…”?

It’s unfortunate that this culture and world we live in tells us we have the right to know things and we have the right to all the facts but we can’t carry that over to faith. That’s not God and that’s not the mystery we participate in either! As much as God is endless mystery so are we and this God continues to reveal in new ways in our lives and beyond. As we celebrate this feast of One God, Three Persons, we can’t even begin to comprehend what that means. All the knowledge in the world on this One God will never suffice the deeper yearning of the heart to enter into deeper mystery and a deeper and felt knowledge that is constantly inviting us beyond what we know. The invitation, as we sit in that tension we call faith, to fall freely into the unknown, this Mystery we call God.

The Transforming Power of Love

Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17

The Lord had revealed to the nations his saving power…

In talking to some friends about all that has gone on in Baltimore the past couple weeks, I mentioned the observation that what I found most sad, beyond all that we had transpired, was the number of people that were clamoring for power, politically, religiously, and socially. There are the people that have to put others down to bring themselves up, there are those that feel their going to swoop in and save the day, and certainly those that take advantage of people in moments of vulnerability. Now I’ve said this before, that, if you have go out looking for it or taking it from others, then you really haven’t found true power; as a matter of fact, it is more an abuse of power than anything and certainly not the power that Jesus speaks of and commands today in loving one another. The saving power of God is revealed in Christ and as John tells us in the second reading, is Love.

In the midst of the social, political, and religious context of Jesus’ time it wasn’t much different. It’s a tension that has always existed and will always exist as long as humans are around, of this power of love that Jesus speaks of and the perceived power that comes from roles, vocation, class, status, and place in society. It’s not to say that some of it isn’t necessary but it becomes an issue when our identity is wrapped up in the role and lose sight of the larger picture and our larger connection with humanity, in Christ and love. We live in a time when the positions and roles still have more credence than love. What hasn’t helped is that we’ve sentimentalized the message of Jesus and watered it down from the radical call that he was commanding of his disciples and for each of us. Ultimately it’s what will cost him his life because the power he gives and is not only casts out sin but at the same time sheds light on the shadow of these systems in which he lived and the systems that we live and participate and the brokenness and dysfunction that follows. It’s not that he was trying to shame anyone, put people down, show himself as better, or anything like that, but rather loved and shed light on the blind spots in order to grow and heal them.

He shows it himself in this image, this social structure, that he presents of slave and master in today’s gospel, where for Jesus, loving means meeting the disciples where they’re at, as friends. Although they may have had perceptions of him being something that he was not or saw him as superior to themselves, such as slave and master, he breaks down even that social structure. When we live in that mindset, we lose sight of who and whose we are and the humanity that we share and it makes love nearly impossible for our lives. It becomes about the perceived power that we hold over others, which of course, is not love at all; it’s for our own agenda and wants. That’s not to say that we don’t love in a way that really isn’t love. We are all taught along the way what we think is love but really often is not; but God wants to take us to a deeper place, to that place of love through love and in love. Love meets us where we are. Love heals. Love reconciles. Love sheds light and frees us. Love because the eternal bond that makes us one. If what we do, how we think, or whatever leads to division and thinking that one is better than the other, we’re pretty much guaranteed it’s not love.

Peter runs into that same tension with Cornelius in today’ first reading from Acts. We hear as Peter approaches that Cornelius falls at his feet in adoration and Peter quickly cuts him off and reminds him that he too is a human being. Now he was different when he arrives, on the surface, but Peter had found that true power within, the divine, and so he somewhat glows when he shows up today. How different he is, though, from the Gospels, when he anticipated a “better than” approach to now even breaking down the social structures between Jew and Gentile, those baptized and those not. Peter has found his deepest identity and it has nothing to do with what he does, but rather who he is, only through love and now he can do nothing but give it away and then through that breaks down the barriers and walls and begins to lead people to a deeper place beyond role and status and structure to a place of love.

It’s radical what the disciples were called to and what Jesus modeled to them and for us. It went against everything that the social, political, and religious structures wanted and threatened them, but most importantly, because it revealed their own vulnerability and their own limitation and the shallowness of what they thought was power; the power of this love leads not only to his death but to the risen life. That’s what none of them ever could have anticipated! Jesus challenges us and leads us to that deeper place of conversion in our lives. Where have we tried to put ourselves above others, forgetting our own identity? Where have we stepped on others and taken advantage of others to get what we want rather than living and showing love?

The gospel demands much of us today because it demands us to change our lives and the way we see others and to meet where we’d want to be met, right where we are. It challenges us to question our motivations in life. It challenges us to evaluate the systems that we participate in and how we to need love to cast light upon us so we can grow and to, like Peter, become the saving power to others, to become love. It’s the only way we can love, where there is no longer slave and master, but friends. This I command each of you, he tells us, love one another. Not in a sentimental kind of way, but rather, move below the surface and allow love to shed light on our own hurt and what we hold onto so that we may become love in order to live the command of loving one another.

The World We Desire

Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14: 25-33

Is this the world we desire?  It was a reflection question posed at the Church’s Day of Prayer and Penance yesterday and what we continue this weekend in our prayer and pursuit of peace.  Is this the world we desire?  The day was to pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world, but an opportunity to reflect upon our own pursuit in our lives.  We see so much violence but we also hear about national interest and national security but what about the fact that these are human lives that we are talking about?  It’s sometimes easy for us to objectify the violence because we typically view it from a tv screen or through the internet, and it’s only when it impacts us personally can we often feel the weight of this culture of violence and death that has impacted our world from the beginning of time.  Is this the world we desire for our children or our children’s children?  Is it the world we desire for ourselves?  It so often takes a change of mindset and culture in order to pursue peace.

It’s what Paul is trying to convey to Philemon in today’s second reading.  It’s one of the few times we hear from the letter, one of the shortest in the New Testament.  Onesimus, a slave of Philemon has escaped and finds himself with Paul.  In the midst of their relationship Onesimus goes through his own conversion in life.  He has always been a slave.  He’s been the property of Philemon.  It’s all that he knows himself as, someone who is less than human.  He makes the transition from slave to freeman and not even returning to Philemon can take away his new identity in Christ.  But Paul is going to plead to Philemon.  As a slave that has escaped his “owner”, Onesimus risks death by Philemon.  Paul wants to convey to Philemon that he is no longer slave int the same sense.  Onesimus now sees himself as a brother of Paul and Paul wants to help Philemon see the same.  Once there is this change of identity and change of mindset for them, a new relationship is established and it becomes increasingly less possible of objectifying and treating as less than another.  Paul wants him to understand this relationship and pleads for Philemon to see Onesimus as a brother, to the point of Paul saying he is sending his own heart back to Philemon.  This is the world that Paul desires, where others are seen as brothers and sisters.

The change of mindset is also what Jesus tries to send to the disciples and the crowd that follows.  It seems at face value to be a rather harsh message, but he doesn’t tell us to hate anyone.  What Jesus wants to break down is the familial relationship and to expand it beyond the biological family.  Your brothers and sisters, mother and father, are more than the biological, they are the relationships we share as a human family.  Your brothers and sisters are anyone that you encounter.  They aren’t just people out there, keeping them at a distance, they are right here and within us.

Yes, we pray for peace this weekend in Middle East and beyond and we could pray for that peace every week, but we first must pray for that peace within ourselves and in our own hearts.  We all participate in the culture of death and violence when we remain enslaved to our own sinfulness.  It’s easy to objectify it on the screen or in other parts of our own community, but it is in us as well!  If we don’t seek conversion as Onesimus does in his life, we too only see ourselves as slave.  Through this conversion Onesimus’ eyes are opened and he begins to see in a new way.  He no longer sees himself as slave, he no longer sees Philemon as “owner”, but rather makes that shift to brother of Paul.  It’s the same conversion we are called to in our lives, to pursue the culture of life and love that our faith promotes.  What is the world we desire?  None of us wants to admit that we participate in the culture of death and violence, that’s only over there, in Syria.  The reality is, it’s in us as well when we hold onto our hatred and bigotry, when we act violently and see others as less than, or when we objectify others, but we are more than that as well.  We must choose life and love in order to break the cycle of violence and death, not only in other parts of the world, but in our own lives as well.  Peace will come, but first by finding in me and finding it in you.  With that, we become agents of change, agents of peace love and life to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.

What Matters to God

Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2: 21-23;  Luke 12: 13-21

The readings this weekend can be hard for us to hear, considering what our world and culture often value.  When we define success, it often comes with college degree, making large sums of money, nice house and car, none of which are bad unto themselves.  However, we are often told that it’s not enough.  That we still need more and more, where who we are is defined by what we have and how much of it we have.  I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing more disheartening than preparing for a funeral and you have family members fighting over inheritance, like today’s gospel.  Everyone wants something and they want more of it.  Who cares about the person who has died!  Yet, both the first reading and the gospel today put us in that position…that moment of death.  Do we know what is really important in our lives?  Can we imagine ourselves on our death bed and ask, “What really matters?”  Is it all this stuff that we cling to in life and think defines us or is it what matters to God as Jesus tells in the parable.  I can’t believe that God will be checking our bank accounts when we die, but God may be looking at how we loved in our relationships and how we loved Christ.  We can accumulate all we want in this life, but as the saying goes, none of us can take it with us.

I think the best image I can think of since the idea of barns is not familiar to us is these self-storage places that you see.  Again, not bad in and of themselves, but do we have that much stuff that we need to store it up in other locations?  When you have the opportunity to travel to Third World countries, it’s hard to imagine the excess that we have in this country and we still want more.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is often considered one of the more negative books in the Bible.  However, what the collected wisdom of that community wanted to convey was the emptiness that one would experience when their lives were consumed by greed.  It’s unfortunate that we have often equated vanity with those that like to look at themselves because Ecclesiastes makes it a much broader issue.  It was anything that has the potential for becoming a god for us.  The reading goes onto say that we can toil and toil all our lives thinking it good that we can have, but at what cost?  Is it costing us our relationships and the love we desire?

The people that Jesus addresses the parable should have known better.  It was law that the land owner leave some of the harvest in the field for those who were in need, and yet, the rich man today, rather than leaving it for those in need, decides to stock pile the excess.  A selfish act on his part when he had no need of it.  Pope Francis recently identified this part of the culture as a “cult of money”.  We allow money, wealth, and possessions to take hold of our lives and define us for who we are.  Through these challenging readings, though, there is an invitation.

There is an invitation for us today to die before we die.  God, it seems, from time to time gives us opportunity to reflect upon what is most important in our lives.  God leads us into these crises within our lives that forces us to look at our lives and into the emptiness and shallowness that Ecclesiastes speaks of to get to the heart of who we really are.  None of us wants to wait until the real death comes to first seek how empty we have spent our lives, and so we pray that we may be given the grace to die before we die.

It is an invitation to become aware of the barns we have built in our own lives and what we are stock piling, what it is that maybe most of our lives we believe defined us and begin to recognize that it’s not really me.  To see that there is more out of life and more important things that money and possessions and all the things that have defined us because what matters most to God is how we loved.  It’s what we all desire.  It is much more complicated than accumulating and stock piling, but it is the life that God calls us to.  To die before we die and to ask ourselves what really matters to us.  Is it all this stuff that our world, the culture, and the financial market tells us we need, much of what is good unto itself, but is not really us?  Or is it love, love of God and love of neighbor.  That’s all that matters to God and should be all that matters to us.