Today’s readings bring some fear. I consider myself a lucky person and I believe that makes Christianity harder. My understanding of Christianity is that it is not a religion of karma, rather it is a religion of unconditional giving.
Where does that leave the lucky? Where does it leave those who have been blessed with gifts? We would like to think of what we have received as being rewards. Instead we are asked to think of them as gifts. We are called to properly direct the wealth of this world and invited to focus on transcendent wealth.
In numerous political systems the king has his wealth and power because it is his divine right. Similarly a man’s wealth may in many societies is taken as a sign that he is a chosen one.
We are called to a very different view. We are made to see that wealth and power may serve as impediments. I find a recurring theme in the Gospels: Much is expected of those who have much.
I think of the confidence I have in my moments of success. I tend to attribute my good fortune to my own works. Although these are the moments that my prayers of thanks are the strongest, they also tend to be the moments when my focus is most askew.
I have recognized that my focus seems to be closest to the mark in my times of weakness. On these occasions I tend to do a better job of giving my attention to the things that really matter. Ironically I tend to like myself best as a person when I have been beaten into humility. I think my family does too. (This does not say that these low points do not raise concerns about the problem of evil or a sense of abandonment, but these are separate issues in my faith life.)
I live in a family with two adolescent males. (My wife would say that there are three adolescent males in the house.) Too often the focus in this world is on oneself; too often the focus is “me”. “I” am proud of what “I” did. There is a subtle competition to determine who is the alpha male. Our successes sometimes let us drift into thoughts where we are the masters of our fate. Accomplishments can lead those who are not careful into casting themselves in God’s role.
More that I would like I find myself in the role of the spiritual adolescent. Time for reflection and direction is needed. I look around me and it is clear that success in the world does not equate with success in the spirit. (Success in the spirit even seems diametrically opposed to many images of success presented to us in paid advertisements.)
Today I pray that I may recognize the gifts I have been given. I pray that I might share and apply these gifts appropriately. I pray that I may focus on what really matters.
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