18th Sunday: Do we have our Priorities Straight?

Some of the most famous tourist sights in the world are tombs. Among them are: the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt; the Taj Mahal in India; the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and the Jewish Cemetery in Prague.

An anonymous author wrote: First I was dying to finish high school and started college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working.  And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school, so I could return to work.  And then I was dying to retire.  And now I am dying… and suddenly I realize I forgot to live.

The man in Jesus’ story had the wrong priorities in that he never saw beyond himself. His plan of life was only a constant focus on the things of this world to the point where his possessions became his only life.  Saint Paul on the other hand had his priorities right when he understood that “Christ was his life”.

Some people make sports instead of possessions their life.  Jim Valvano, a famous North Carolina State basketball coach who was suffering from terminal cancer,  told a story about himself when he was a 23-year-old coach of a small college team. At that time he believed that the final score defines youYou lose, so you are a loser. You win, so you are a winner.” It took 24 more years of living for the coach to say, trying your best, regardless of whether you win or lose – that is what defines you. It is the effort, not result. He added what a great human being I could have been if I had believed this back then.”

Saint Paul, reminds the followers of Jesus that we must find our value in present life in relationship to Jesus Christ. Those of us who are trying to live out our baptism promises live by a new set of values. We think of giving instead of getting, serving rather than ruling, forgiving and not avenging. We are grateful for life given by God without cost, friends provided without price, eternity promised without merit. We have the insight that our worth isn’t measured by what we own, but by what we share and that we have the opportunity to grow in the lasting wealth of Christian love. We are not defined ourselves by our salary, by our material possessions, or by our accomplishments on earth. We are to prepare to move into the dwelling place prepared for us in heaven rather than building bigger barns. Do we have our priorities straight?

A sign on a bulletin board in a hospital maternity ward read: “Research Shows that the First Five Minutes of Life Can Be Most Risky.” Penciled underneath someone wrote: “The Last Five Minutes Ain’t So Hot Either.” For those still clinging to the things of this world, the last five minutes can be a time of great uneasiness and sadness.  For those who have found Christ to be their life, the last five minutes of life can be a time filled with great expectation and joy. 

Fr. Tom