Summer is fast waning – here it is August already, and thoughts begin to turn to the start of school. I am away this weekend visiting my nephew and his wife and my great-nephew and great-niece in San Antonio, Texas. Went there to cool off! Ha! Ha! The pastor of the parish that my nephew belongs to was in the seminary with me, so it will be nice to see him as well. He is getting older and has had some recent health problems. Ah, that aging process isn’t always very kind.
A modern take on today’s Gospel about the man who builds larger barns to store all his treasure would be the proliferation over the past 20-30 years of the availability of storage units to rent. Now granted, those storage pods you see in front yards make sense when you are remodeling your house. But it seems to me that if you don’t already have room for all your stuff, and you have to rent a storage unit, then you have too much stuff!! This Gospel challenges us to examine what is most important in our lives….what matters to God or what matters ultimately to us. What do we hold on to and don’t want to let go of? So what exactly matters to God? The second reading gives us some idea. We are told to seek what is above, to put on our new selves and to stop lying to one another. Practical advice. But perhaps it is the psalm response that says it best: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” By nature, holding on to, keeping anything safe, that is not of God, we close in. When our fists clench, our breath shortens and our hearts harden. Perhaps it isn’t what we have but how we hold it that causes the greatest spiritual malady. Just as there are particular physical symptoms indicating such conditions as hardening of the arteries, so too are there discernible symptoms of a spiritually hardened heart. The rich man in the Gospel is a poster child for this condition. First, he is focused on what he can physically hold on to. Next, he is counting on material wealth to afford him rest, nourishment and happiness. Sadly, he believes he is the one in control. What about us? In his book With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen teaches us to pray: Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing to hang on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. AMEN!!
Have a blessed summer!