18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 4, 2013)
Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23
Ps 90: 3-6, 12-14, 17
Col 3:1-5, 9-11
When I was in middle school, I developed an expensive hobby. Collecting baseball cards. I started off buying a pack or two at a time from the local grocery store when I could save up enough money. They were the cards that had the stick of pink gum that was hard as a rock, lost its flavor after about 30 seconds and made your jaws hurt. If I got duplicate cards, I would trade them with my neighborhood friends. Eventually my mom and I would go to these large conventions and walk from table to table searching for just the right card. My baseball hero was Philadelphia Phillies 3rd baseman Mike Schmidt. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1995 and considered by most to have been the best at his position in the history of baseball. It was my goal to collect every single Mike Schmidt card, coin, button, photograph, magazine cover and figurine available. We would spend hours at the conventions looking for those really rare collectibles and act like we just won the lottery when a hidden gem was located. I ended up with a pretty large collection of Mike Schmidt stuff and got to the point when I could no longer find anything new. However, there was still one card that eluded me: His 1973 rookie card.
There were plenty out there, but I couldn’t afford one on my middle school salary. One day my mom and I were browsing the vendor’s tables at a card convention when she saw a reasonably priced Mike Schmidt rookie card. It was in good condition but was printed off-centered, which lowered its value considerably. After much debate, we purchased it for around $100 and my collection was complete. Since there was nothing more to collect, I eventually lost interest and stopped going to the baseball card conventions. 20 some years later I am now the proud owner of four very large bins of baseball memorabilia that just sit in a closet. What once consumed my life now collects dust.
I think a lot of people can relate to my story. We tend to want to collect things we don’t really need or do things that distract us from what is really important on life’s journey. Maybe instead of baseball cards, you like to accumulate electronics, tools or money. Maybe your time is overly consumed with watching TV, playing video games or gossiping. Speaking as a parent, one thing that consumes a lot of our family’s time is shuttling the kids to sporting events like practices and games. Some days it’s even hard to make time for a family dinner because of juggling three different soccer schedules. It can be down right exhausting to do all of the day-to-day activities required in a 24-hour period. And yet somehow, in all of the chaos, we are supposed to find time for God….
Even as a Catholic Deacon, sometimes my prayer life struggles. It’s hard to pencil God in when I can barely catch my breath some days because of making certain deadlines and finishing projects that need my attention. This adds more stress to my life and, according to my beautiful wife, I tend to get a little grumpy when this happens. So no, wearing these vestments does not mean that I am perfect!
So here’ s my question…Why do we do it? Why do we let ourselves get overbooked and overburdened with things that aren’t leading us to God? I truly think it’s because we are trying to fill a void. Our hearts have an aching that causes us to search for that special something to fill it with. But the sad truth is that we all too often turn to worldly things to try and fill the void. In the end, these things fall short and we are left searching for the next temporary thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow satisfy our heart’s desires with something that will never fade!
Many may not realize this but I don’t get paid to be a Catholic Deacon. I jokingly tell people that I get paid in grace and I hope God takes that into consideration on my judgment day! I do, however, get to do some really cool stuff. Fr. Noel, Deacon Richard and I take turns doing Benediction just before midnight on Wednesdays to close out Eucharistic Adoration. About two weeks ago it was my turn. So I got dressed up in my white alb, deacon stole and cope (that’s the thing that looks like a cape) and after certain prayers, give a blessing with the Eucharist while it’s in the monstrance. After the blessing, I take the luna (which is the glass container holding the Eucharist) out of the monstrance and slowly walk it back and place it in the tabernacle. As I’m walking back, I take our Eucharistic Lord and hold Him against my heart. When I do this, my heart starts pounding and speeds up like I just ran a marathon. It’s almost like my heart is trying to leap out of my body and be united with that of Christ who is truly present in the Eucharist. My heart innately knows that the only thing that can satisfy it completely is a mere two inches away. To quote St. Augustine, ‘my heart is restless until it rests in you.”
This is what we need to focus on. This is how we are to permanently fill the void in our heart left by original sin. Only God can fulfill our every desire. But it will take effort. It will take sacrifice. It takes studying and actively practicing your faith on a daily basis. And I know you can do it! I’ve seen the love and passion some of you parents have teaching your children sports. Can you imagine how strong of a faith your child will have if you put that same effort into teaching them our faith?
That’s the message Jesus was trying to get across in Luke’s Gospel concerning the parable of the rich man. We can accumulate all the stuff in the world, but one day, we will all die and that stuff is not coming with us. Everything in this world…our money, house, spouse, children, job, even my 1973 Mike Schmidt rookie card…EVERYTHING…can be taken away in a moment’s notice…but our faith can’t. So focus on what matters to God. Unite your heart with His and you will find rest.