You Become What You Love
by Rev. Richard A. Miserendino
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."
You become what you love
It’s a simple truth that we become like what we love.
Whether it be the kid who imitates her favorite aunt, the love-struck young man memorizing a girl’s favorite song, or even someone trying to earn the respect of a mentor, we readily go out of our way to become like that which captures our heart. We become like what we love.
An equally simple truth: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.” So, what do we treasure, where is our heart and our love, and who are we becoming? In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to consider this from a perspective of prosperity. The parable is straightforward: A man grows in wealth and the goods of this world. After a bit, he has more than he might ever need, and yet, continues to invest in himself and managing his riches. At last, he kicks back to enjoy the spoils, and at that instant, he is called home to God. The message is blunt as well. Which of his barns or goods will serve him now?
Put another way, they don’t make hearses with luggage racks.
There is not a single stock, commodity or consumable that will make it into eternity. All will pass away. If our life is invested in the things of this world, then it will perish with them. We become like what we love. Love of money and wealth alone will make our lives like money: easily wasted, lost or spent, value changing with each crisis, and ultimately anonymous and interchangeable. No one remembers who last owned a $10 bill.
That said, it’s not wrong to use the things of this world prudently and justly. We can arrange our finances and assets to care for others here and now and after we’re gone, but even that is transitory. We need only think back a few years to 2008 to realize how passing and shaky the riches of the world really are. If our life is to have meaning and real value, we need something more stable, something that will last. This is precisely what Jesus urges us to consider: What follows us into eternity and what will benefit those who come after us in the long run?
On one level, the answer is virtue. Virtues are good habits that perfect our souls in ways that last. They’re the investments of this life that will gain us treasure in the next. They’re things that seem forgotten in our age, things such as courage, honesty, friendship, generosity, gratitude and many more. If we love them, we will come to embody them.
If, for instance, we learn to love Christ in Scripture and in the poor here and now, we will grow to love him more in eternity. Faith, hope and charity beget eternal life. Generosity and gratitude grow our hearts. Likewise, if we refuse to be dishonest and instead live for the truth, then we help to build up a world of trust for those after us in this life and train our hearts to love truth in Christ in the next.
We become like what we love. We love what we treasure. We owe ourselves a good examination here: What do we really allow ourselves to treasure in this life? Perhaps we’re due for a conversion of treasure and a conversion of heart.
Yet, even then, Jesus spurs us to more, to consider something even beyond the reach of virtues in this world. Virtues make us better, true. They form lasting perfections in our soul, true. But there’s a good that comes from union with God that is beyond even the beginnings of our comprehension. Jesus raises the question: If it’s true that we become like what we love, what if by grace our hearts are drawn to truly love God? What then might we become?