Greetings, SBT Readers!
For those who disbelieve in Climate Change, the evidence to the contrary is becoming harder to dispute. The current heat wave across the United States and Europe, wild fires in California, floods in Kentucky, and the melting of 18 billion tons of Greenland's ice sheet in just three days (July 15-17, 2022) are all stark indicators of the catastrophe that is rapidly unfolding. Though the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow was scientifically flawed and roundly critiqued by the scientific establishment, yet it portrayed massive eco disasters happening simultaneously -- and that is precisely what we are experiencing today, with horrific loss of life, property, infrastructures, communities, crops, natural resources, employment, etc. What more evidence do we need that we are now in a struggle for the survival of humanity and that what is called for is a complete transformation of consciousness -- new ways of safeguarding the environment, collaborating with other nations and protecting the resources that belong to all the world's people?
Despite all the evidence, however, there are still countless individuals who deny what is right before their eyes. Quoting "scientific reports" funded by fossil fuel companies, they insist that the disasters the world is currently enduring are just part of the natural cycle of life. It is difficult to fathom how so many are so willing to believe lies -- the claim, for example, that the Holocaust never happened, or that it is "people who kill, not guns," or that school massacres like the Sandy Hook tragedy were a theatrical production, or that "Christian nationalism" is actually Christian? When one lives in a culture of lies, we have two choices: to stay quiet, thereby condoning grand deception; or to play the prophet and speak out? Each option involves risks, but with the fate of the world at stake, it would seem that truth-speaking is the preferable alternative!
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
Lk 12: 32-48
The theme of "right relationship to wealth" continues this Sunday, along with the reminder that we need to be vigilant at all times. Like the Rich Fool in last Sunday's parable, we can get caught so up in the material universe that we ignore the spiritual dimension of life; and, like the Rich Fool, we then lose everything, including our souls!
All this being said, we need to avoid a materialistic view of spirituality. What I mean by this is the belief that "heavenly treasure" can be amassed by certain devotions, prayers and spiritual practices. Spirituality is not quantifiable; it is a way of being, of living in God, rather than "doing" things for God. Before Vatican II, Catholics were encouraged to perform certain penances and say specific prayers so as to reduce their time in "Purgatory." As a child, I never quite understood how anyone could calculate the number of days we would be spending in that dreaded place, but getting "time off" seemed like a good deal. Today, there are many adults who still see spiritual practices as a kind of investment policy. James Fowler in Stages of Faith, uses the example of Mrs. W to demonstrate a stage of faith that is transactional. Mrs. W. sees faith as a bank account into which she can make deposits, sometimes in the form of good deeds and sometimes by reciting Hail Marys or the the Lord's Prayer. "Then when I need it, it's in the bank," says Mrs. W. (147). For Mrs. W. and those who share her world view, God dispenses help and forgiveness when there is "money" in the bank to fund Divine assistance. Faith is entirely reciprocal: if WE do this for God, then God will do as we request!
Transactional faith assumes that we can earn God's love and mercy-- by donations, going on pilgrimages, attending retreats, receiving the sacraments, volunteering, serving in ministerial roles, joining a religious community... That is not the "inexhaustible treasure" to which Jesus is referring. We already possess the Kingdom that God has freely given us; the "treasure" is already awaiting us-- but a materialistic spirituality misses the point. As long as we are burdened by our ego needs and worldly possessions, we crave more things, get distracted by our desires and deceive ourselves into thinking we can earn our place in the Kingdom. The reality is that Heaven lies around us, above us, beneath us and within us; it is a state of being in which we are so at one with our Divine Source that the Christ-Self replaces our narrow, limited, self-serving selves.
Surrendering in faith, lifted up by the "realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen" (Heb 11:1-2), we enter into that Loving Energy we name "God," experiencing that peace that "passeth all understanding" (Phil 4:7). At home in the Heart of God, we discover that nothing can disturb this peace, shake our faith or separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35). As Jesus reminds us, "For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be" ( Lk 12:34).