The Sunday readings challenge us to focus on what is really essential. The American Capuchin Blessed Solanus Casey once counseled “Material prosperity becomes the absorbing object of human endeavor as though there were nothing higher and better to be gained.” St. John of the Cross reminds us that in the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions or human success but rather on how much we have loved. St. Teresa of Calcutta advised that “God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful.”
As a young religious, I lived with a Sister whom I would call saintly. Many readers of this reflection remember her ~ Sister Michaelann Delaney. The convent I now live in (Delaney Hall) has a portrait of Sister Michaelann in the lobby with a plaque containing this inscription (paraphrased): “The good we do and the love we show are our legacy and have the power to change our world long after we are gone.” In life, Sister lived simply. In death, Sister continues to touch many lives, including through an annual tribute grant which supports families in need of monetary assistance. The Gospel writer and Qoheleth, agree that our focus should not be on accumulating possessions but to “store up treasures in heaven” by divesting ourselves of possessions.
Sadly, for many today the preoccupation is with the transient material world. Accumulating what fails to satisfy just produces an emptiness and a sense of purposelessness. The pressure of keeping up with the neighbors adds to this discord and anxiety. In that poignant carpe diem lecture from Dead Poets Society, Mr. Keating, portrayed by Robin Williams, encourages his young affluent students to seize the day, but not necessarily in pursuit of material prosperity but rather to seek what feeds the soul, for like the prosperous man in the Gospel narrative “each of us one day will stop breathing, turn cold and die.”
As we reflect on the Sunday readings, may we come to a deeper understanding of how to live generously and without regret. As St. John of the Cross also reminds us, “our moments of being emptied can prepare us to be filled by God.”
Sister Marcella Louise Wallowicz, CSFN