Rich in What Matters to God by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me." He replied to him, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?" Then he said to the crowd, "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions."
Then he told them a parable. "There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, 'What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?' And he said, 'This is what I shall do. I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you , you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!"' But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?' Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God."
In this week's Gospel, Jesus invites us to be rich in what matters to God, His Father. This comes on the heels of offering a strong warning about greed and how destructive it is to the human spirit. Greed has a way of seeping into our hearts and poisoning our lives with an insatiable longing for stuff, for prestige and for fun. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, greed keeps us from devoting ourselves to those things that make us truly rich, those things that build us up, make us fully human and bring us lasting peace.
As Christians, we usually grasp the need to be profoundly grateful to God for creating and redeeming us in love and for holding us in the palm of His hand at every moment of the day. When that gratitude is real, when it courses through our veins, we actually begin to desire the things that matter most to God.
St. Paul reminds us in the first reading that one essential part of becoming rich in what matters to God is to root out the desires that lead us astray from God, those parts of us that he calls "earthly." "Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry." (Col 3:9)
Because of original sin, our human nature is dented. Our human nature is certainly not ruined, but it is wounded. We do not naturally gravitate toward the good with the same quickness and ease as before the epic fall of Adam and Eve. Because of their sin, every human being has inherited concupiscence, a weakness or dent in our nature. As Christians, we recognize this fact of our existence and actively keep an eye on and strive to surrender to God the tendency to look in the wrong places for the happiness for which we were made. A good gardener knows that he must regularly weed his garden if he wants the flowers and vegetables to flourish.
So then, what are those things that matter most to God?
Humility matters to God. The example of Jesus' life screams "humility." He was born in a cave, and His first crib was a manger. He grew up in the insignificant town of Nazareth, and His (foster) father was a carpenter. He never owned a house, and He never got a college degree. He died among criminals, nailed to a tree and abandoned by most of His closest colleagues. Clearly, Jesus modeled a life of humility. For us Christians, humility is the fruit of realizing that God is God and we are not. It is the fruit of recognizing that everything that is good in me and outside of me was created by His loving, almighty hand. Humility is attractive, disarming and uplifting to others. Humility is definitely one of those things that matters to God.
Prayer matters to God, too. One of the most fundamental and attractive elements of Christianity is that God created us out of love to live in a loving union with Him. Through the redeeming work of Christ, we are invited to be drawn up, as God's adopted children, into the very life and love of the holy Trinity. We are created to be in relation with God. This means that we need to spend time with God, worshiping Him, praising Him, telling Him we are sorry for our sins, learning from Him, being in His presence, accepting His tender love and making Him know that we are grateful for His boundless gifts. We need to spend time with Him nurturing our relationship. That is prayer: spending time with the Beloved. Prayer matters to God.
Serving our neighbor with a generous heart matters to God. Once again, the example of Jesus' life shines brightly for all to see. He spent nearly every waking moment (when He was not in prayer) humbly serving His neighbor, with a particular eye for those who were in pain or on the fringe of society. After washing His disciples' feet and shocking them with His humble spirit of service, Jesus said, "You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." (Jn 13:13-15) Seeing our neighbor in need, being moved to compassion for him or her, and doing something to address that need matters to God.
Jesus becomes poor that we might become rich. He teaches how to be rich in what matters to God. He teaches us to manage our account and to build up treasure in heaven by rooting out sin, developing the virtue of humility, learning how to pray well and serving our neighbor in need with a generous heart.
Please consider a tax deductible gift to support this web site.
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index