Our theme for this week tells us, “There is nothing in the world that can fulfill us but God alone. Our labors and our wealth on earth cannot be our ultimate purpose. To grow rich ‘in the sight of God’ is the only truly satisfying and joyful way of life.” We will see this theme developed through all the readings of this week, culminating on Saturday with the Feast of the Transfiguration, in which we will see the glory to which we are called in Christ, a glory infinitely exceeding any passing glory which we might achieve in this life.
In today’s first reading, Qoheleth makes clear the futility of amassing wealth in this life, as he asks, “What profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” In the end, as he points out, whatever we have acquired on earth will simply be passed on to someone else when we die. We cannot take any of it with us, nor will it count for anything in the judgment of God.
Jesus likewise teaches us in the Gospel that anyone who spends his time building up wealth and power in this life is a fool. He says, “One’s life does not consist of possessions.” The wise person is the one who seeks to become “rich in what matters to God.”
This life is very short, as the Psalm points out. Even “a thousand years” come and go “as a watch of the night.” We have only to take a moment and think of those who have gone before us. They had their brief moment upon earth, but that is over for them and they are now in eternity. The same will be true for us in a very short time. Others will have taken our places, and we will be in the next life, where any possessions or status that we had in this life will mean nothing at all. That is why the psalmist begs God: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” We tend to number our days as if we had an unending supply, but we know that, in fact, we have a very limited number of days here on earth.
In the Spiritual Reflection, Pope Francis teaches us the right way for us to approach the things which we acquire in this life: “Material goods are necessary — they are goods! — but they are a means to live honestly and in sharing with the neediest.” In other words, our possessions are given to us so that we might use them to help us serve our brothers and sisters. As Pope Francis goes on to say, “It is a case of leading a life that is fulfilled not according to a worldly manner, but rather according to the style of the Gospel: to love God with all one’s being, and love one’s neighbor as Jesus loved him, that is, in service and in giving oneself.”
In the second reading, St. Paul states most clearly how we are to live in this world: “Seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” Our first concern must be for “things above,” that is, becoming rich in what matters to God, which is sacrificial love in service to our brothers and sisters.
The Apostle gives us a great insight into how we can approach this life correctly. He tells us that we “have died” and our real life is hidden. We know that after we die, our worldly possessions will be of no use to us at all. Therefore, we should live now as if we had already died with Christ, having no attachment to possessions, but only using them to bring greater glory to God and to serve others. This is what the Gospel Acclamation refers to when it calls blessed the “poor in spirit.” It does not matter whether we have possessions or power in this world; what matters is how we use what we do have. If we use it in the service of God, then we may be sure that, indeed, the Kingdom of Heaven will be ours!
What are the attachments in my life that are hindering my growth in the Lord? Why am I so preoccupied with material things that I cannot take with me when I die? How am I striving to seek the “things above” and thus become rich in what matters to God?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.