St. Thomas the Apostle Parish at 1449 Wilcox Park Drive SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506 US - Wealth
Father James Chelich – Thanksgiving 2008
READ: Deuteronomy 8:7-18
Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God, by neglecting the commandments and decrees and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest you…then become haughty of heart and unmindful of the Lord, your God… Otherwise you might say to yourself, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth.’ Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers.
Both for individuals and collectively for a society, it is the Covenant God made with us – the Commandments, and the personal and social integrity they call for – that are the underlying principles for acquiring wealth without violence or bloodshed, in a peaceful prosperity that invites all into its blessings. There is no thanksgiving that does not include heartfelt gratitude for and renewed dedication to this Covenant.
READ: Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14
Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens! God chose us in him before the world began, to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love… It is in Christ and through his blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us. God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan he was pleased to carry out in the fullness of time: namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ’s headship.
There is spiritual wealth and there is material wealth. The world mocks spiritual wealth as good only for those who fail to obtain material wealth. The world calls spiritual wealth the consolation prize for the losers. Is this really true? What is spiritual wealth? Actually, it consists of a number of surprisingly tangible realities.
Spiritual wealth is to be released from your past. It is freedom from the guilt of past sins and the defeating memory of past failures. It is to know with certainly that your sins have been forgiven, cast behind God’s back and will be remembered no more. It is to realize that despite past failure there is a power at work which now seeks to lift you and set you once again on the path of achieving what is good. Spiritual wealth is to be able to have your full attention on the present, your mental powers intact and alert, and your eyes focused ahead.
Spiritual wealth is to be healed of the debilitating wounds you carry within you. It is release from the crippling memory of past abuse with its bitterness, smoldering resentment and always ready anger. It is no longer to have these poisoning the present by distorting your perception of the good and the beautiful in others and the world around you. It is the grace to forgive those who have injured you and, by so doing, to unlock the door behind which you have imprisoned yourself. It is to once again be able to trust.
Spiritual wealth is confidence in knowing that you are loved unconditionally. It is to stop seeking from others a love that they, no more than you, can give – and then crucifying them for their failure to give it. It is to find the love we all seek from the unfailing Source of our Being, and to allow it to fill your heart and overflow into the lives of others, bringing them genuine affection and support.
Spiritual wealth is to be able to look at things and see them in true perspective – to be able to recognize in each person and thing their value, their beauty, and the good they have to offer.
Spiritual wealth is being able to love another human being, through a genuine sacrifice of self, and thus fulfill the greatest of the human potentials within you.
All these things are ours in Christ. We cannot buy them, nor can we create them for ourselves. Each one of them is a gift – His gift to those who ask, who seek and who knock. These things are not just “nice to have so that you can get on with more important things.” They are tangible wealth in their own right, which does not fluctuate in market value over time. This is the wealth capable of purchasing genuine human happiness and hope.
READ: The Gospel of Luke 12:15-21
Avoid greed in all its forms. A man may be wealthy,
but his possessions do not guarantee him life.
The singer Madonna proclaimed that she was a “material girl.”
A sad admission, but it makes pretty explicit her conviction, and that of many people, that a material world is all there is. The real truth is that this is a relational world, and relationship is the only form of personally fulfilling human wealth. The ability to connect in a living way with the people and world around you is wealth beyond imagining. Those who fail to grow rich in personal relationship turn to material things as their consolation prize, hoping that these things will convince them that they are worth something and that their lives mean something. But no “thing” is capable of doing this. The very essence of humanity is its capacity for relationship – with God, with others and with the multitude of creatures and elements in creation. When this capacity is lost or surrendered,
the human soul is set adrift. We become desperate, dangerous animals. For such a soul, there is only a material world where violence is done, again and again, in all kinds of ways, to things and to people now treated as things – all to the end of making these material things “say” to the lost soul what it no longer believes: that there is some worth or meaning to who they are.
What is wealth? It is wealth to have a friend with whom you connect in a living way and through whose eyes you gain new perspective on the world. It is wealth to have not just babies, but children with whom you explore the wonder of life. It is wealth to have not just a wife but a partner to create a living space between you. It is wealth to have a table – any size, it doesn’t make any difference – around which to gather family and friends in lively conversation. It is wealth to have a front porch – big or small it makes no difference – upon which to go out and stand together looking in wonder at the beauty of the night sky. It is wealth to meet another soul in need and offer something of yourself – it doesn’t matter f the “something” is large or small – and see hope return to their eyes. It is wealth to run out into your yard – it doesn’t matter if it is an acre or a dozen square feet – and tend the flowers or run your feet in the leaves. It is wealth to tuck your child into bed – it matters not whether it is of carved mahogany or simple pine boards, so long as it is warm and clean. This wealth too never drops in market value.
Just the other day a TV commentator said that thirty-three percent
of the wealth in the United States had been lost within three weeks.
This begs the question: What is the substance of a wealth that can evaporate into thin air in three weeks? What is the substance upon which millions were and will again pin their hopes for security and happiness? Not everyone lost a third of their wealth in those three weeks. Some had their investments in better places and remain wealthy beyond imagining. Spiritual wealth, true human wealth, does not collapse. It is only surrendered, given up upon, or allowed to slip through our fingers.
True thanksgiving is for the things that matter: relational things, human things, things only God and His grace can restore to us. It is of cherishing these things that Saint Paul writes when he bids us:
Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
clothe each other with heartfelt mercy, with kindness,
humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another;
forgive whatever grievances you have against one another,
Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all of these
virtues but on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect. Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of one body you have been called to that peace. Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns and inspired songs. Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord. Give thanks to God the Father through Him.