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Single-minded Focus

September 18, 2016

A reflection for the 25th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year C. The readings are Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 11, 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and Luke 16:1-13.

Recently, I bumped into someone I know who, without even saying, “Hi, how are you” said to me: “I have an idea for a show.” People do say this to me occasionally since they know I work for Salt + Light TV – everyone has a show idea. He then said, “You know how priests and bishops never speak about damnation….” I began thinking, “not sure how good that show would be….” It is an important topic although I know why people don’t like to talk about it; no one likes to be told that they’re going to hell. But I also thought, “good for you. This is important to you and you know people don’t want to talk about it and you’re out there telling people about it.” I don’t have to agree with what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, but good for you. (I also wanted to tell him that just last week, my pastor, Fr. Boniface preached about exactly that!)

I thought of him when I read today’s Gospel.

I have a friend who I’ve known since Theatre School. He’s been very successful in films, TV – he’s always working. But he’s divorced. You could say he hasn’t been very successful in his married life. But it’s not because there are no morals in Hollywood and they have no values. It’s because he was single-minded about his purpose: He knew what was important and nothing else was more important to him than that. He wanted to be an actor and that was more important to him than his marriage.

Jesus doesn’t praise the steward in today’s Gospel because of his dishonesty; we know that. He praises him for being single-minded in his purpose. He praises him for being shrewd and smart; for knowing what he wants and going to get it and for planning ahead.

Jesus says, “the children of this world” – and that was no compliment. “The children of this world”, all the worldly people, those people you don’t like, who are dishonest, who have no morals, who don’t believe in God, the pagans– they are smarter about what’s important to them that we are; we, the “children of light”, about what should be important to us.

And what can be more important than your salvation? Your career? Your health? Your finances? Your education? Your happiness? Your family?

I’m reading a book – it’s actually a series titled I Am Margaret, by British author Corinna Turner. It’s a dystopian novel that takes place in a future where religion is illegal. Towards the end of the story, one of the priests, Fr. Mark, is dying. Margaret, the protagonist, is the only one there and she doesn’t know what to do to help him. so she pleads, “Fr. Mark, tell me what to do. Tell me what I can do to save you.” And Fr. Mark just asks, “do you forgive me?” (because of something that had happened earlier) Margaret responds in exasperation, “do I forgive you?! This is about your life! What do I do so you don’t die?!” Fr. Mark responds, “it’s not about my life; it’s about my soul.” For him it’s more important to be forgiven than to live because his eternal life is more important than his earthly life.

Our life here on earth is not more important than our eternal life.

St. Teresa of Avila said that when we get to Heaven, our life on earth – especially the suffering on earth – will seem like an inconvenient night in a cheap motel. This is not forever. This is not our home. This is a sleepover. We are but pilgrims wandering through this life on our way to our real home.  And we know it’s just temporary, still we spend so much energy trying to make this inconvenient night in the cheap motel as comfortable as possible.

How much time do you spend at work? How much time do you spend at the gym? How much time do you spend studying? How much time do you spend watching the news? Reading? How much time do you spend in prayer? How many hours do you spend in Church at Mass or in Adoration?

I’m going to repeat what my Pastor, Fr. Boniface said last week because it’s good: “Being good will not get you into Heaven.” Being good is not enough.

The first reading from the Book of Amos tells us that we need to act with justice and be mindful of those who do not have as much as we have. That’s important, but it’s not enough.

The second reading tells us to pray for everyone; even for politicians – I would say we have to pray about everything in our lives: our finances, our health, our education, our work, our charitable works. St. Paul says to be aware that God wants everyone to be saved. This is important; but I’d say still, this isn’t enough. It’s not about how much you pray or how many Rosaries you said today.

It’s not about praying to God; it’s about your relationship with God. How well do you know God? Not ‘about God’ but do you know God? And do you let God know you? That’s what matters.

It doesn’t matter if you sin; ‘cause you will. It doesn’t matter if you fail; ‘cause you will. Get back up. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes; ‘cause you will. What matters is your relationship with God. Does He know you? That’s what’s important.

One last story. In the Summer I went to a conference about one of the greatest spiritual thinkers of our time, Henri Nouwen (if you’re looking for really good and accessible spiritual reading, look up Henri Nouwen). At the conference I had the chance to speak with David Haas. You may recognize the name as he is one of the most popular liturgical composers of our time (he wrote You Are Mine, Blest Are They and many, many others). David was telling me that the big catch phrase after the Second Vatican Council about liturgy was that everyone should have a “full, active and conscious participation in the Liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium #14). When we go to Mass, we should all be fully, actively and consciously participating in Mass. David said that people think that means they have to sing loud; that they have to say all the Mass responses loud. But that’s not what it’s about. He said that Henri Nouwen taught us that we have to live loud. Everything we do is about God and we should be passionate about everything we do. (Like that guy at the beginning who was passionate about telling people about salvation.)

What are you passionate about? The environment? Healthy eating? Sports? Politics? Social Justice? The refugee crisis? God?

We need to be passionate about our relationship with God. About knowing, loving and serving God.

That’s what’s important. And if God is the most important, then you can’t serve God and everyone else at the same time.

What’s more important is our salvation.

We need to be shrewd,  smart and single-minded about that!

From → English, Reflections

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