For it is in giving that we receive — Saint Francis of Assisi
Many Catholics face a dilemma: how can one be faithful to traditions, yet remain open to new discoveries, both about yourself and Catholicism?
Brothers and sisters the answer is simple, it is not complex. The answer was in the beginning, is now and will always be to follow the traditions. It is a very scary and imprudent belief to think that somehow we could put ourselves above God. God is not our equal He is our creator. God is not our brother, he is our Father.
The problem has been and will continue to be when people put themselves about God. We do not need God? We are doing okay without him, right? Life is all that we have, I will deny myself anything in this world for some vague promise of a future life? Why give up anything to a promise when you could have everything right here and right now?
These are great questions. However, I am truly reminded of this Bible Passage.
Parable of the Rich Fool (Lk 12:13-21)
16. Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
17. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?
18. 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
19. 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!”’
20 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?’
21. Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Jesus is questioned about a familial inheritance dispute. He offers a parable in order to teach about the dangers of the capital sin of greed--the capital sins are thus named because they tend to engender other sins.
In the parable, we hear of a rich man who reaps a bountiful harvest. Instead of building up riches that matter to God, the man bases his security on material treasures, and plans to tear down his barns in order to build new, larger structures that can safely house his harvest. Elated over the harvest he plans to enjoy in the future, the rich man proclaims, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!"'
However, God tells the rich man his life will be demanded of him that very night. Death will strip away his false security, and he will be found wanting in what really matters. At the end of the parable, Jesus provides this warning: "Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself, but is not rich in what matters to God."
Our American culture often promotes the false values of the "good life"-storing up treasure for oneself. This life of material wealth is perpetually held up as the real treasure to be continually desired and sought after. Additionally, contemporary society in the West nourishes a hedonistic attitude and lifestyle.
The life of simplicity and asceticism is shunned, while fine dining, entertainment, comfort, power and financial success are elevated, even to the point of being worshiped metaphorically. The words of the rich man, "rest, eat, drink, [and] be merry!" echo throughout our society.
No amount of material wealth, power or prestige will make us permanently happy. On the contrary, the wealthy and powerful are often people whose interior has become barren and turned in on itself, a place where peace and happiness are as absent as rain in the desert. Their ground is spiritually parched, and material treasure provides no healing balm to alleviate the pain.
Further, the more material wealth is gathered, the more chained to these fleeting possessions we become. The greater the harvest, the more urgent is the demand for larger barns. Material wealth is not a sin per se, of course, but it does not lead to the happiness we unceasingly crave and seek. It becomes a sin when you make it the center focus of your life. This is a great example of the idea of throwing away tried and true beliefs for the sake of doing so.
What is the problem here? The problem is us. We are our own worst problem because in many cases we follow the crowd and find that it is easier to follow the crowd or your friends rather than it is to follow God’s rules. Jesus came back to establish a Church. The Church was the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. Following Jesus’ teachings in this world is the best way to get to be with him in the next life. The best way to live the way Jesus wants us to live is to not only read the Bible and go to Church, he wants us to actively serve others. Through our service to others we are serving Him in this world and the next.
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others.
Before leaving this point I would like to briefly introduce you to the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. For those whole think about throwing away your beliefs for some new idea or something that may be popular. Remember one thing. God did not promise this life would be without challenges. One of the greatest must have been the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. The story says that during the persecutions by the Roman emperor Decius, around 250 AD, seven young men were accused of following Christianity. They were given some time to recant their faith, but they refused to bow to Roman idols. Instead they chose to give their worldly goods to the poor and retire to a mountain cave to pray, where they fell asleep. The Emperor, seeing that their attitude towards paganism had not improved, ordered the mouth of the cave to be sealed. Decius died in 251, and many years passed during which Christianity went from being persecuted to being the state religion of the Roman Empire. At some later time—usually given as during the reign of Theodosius II (408–450)—in 447 A.D. When heated discussions were taking place between various schools of Christianity about the resurrection of the body on the day of judgement and life after death, a landowner decided to open up the sealed mouth of the cave, thinking to use it as a cattle pen. He opened it and found the sleepers inside. They awoke, imagining that they had slept but one day, and sent one of their numbers to Ephesus to buy food, with instructions to be careful.
Upon arriving in the city, this person was astounded to find buildings with crosses attached; the townspeople for their part were astounded to find a man trying to spend old coins from the reign of Decius. The bishop was summoned to interview the sleepers; they told him their miracle story, and died praising God. They choose the truth over convenience and they lived for more than 100 years to tell their story to others. This is the story of why you should provide active service to your community every day. When we put others first, we are lifted up to see what is truly important in life. Therefore, brothers and sisters, today is the day we shall begin our new life in the service of Jesus Christ. Amen