An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
I have to smile when I read in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” I smile because I know that in today’s world few people owe nothing to anyone. We have credit card debt, mortgages, student loans, car loans, and new loans to consolidate old loans. It would seem that we actually owe everything to everyone.
These debts are of this world. I am pretty sure no one residing in heaven is still making mortgage payments. We have created contracts in this world to make possible certain transactions of goods, services, and shelter. But there is one thing that we naturally owe one another and that lasts longer than our time on earth: love.
You do not need to take out a loan to have more love to give. There also is no limit to the love you have been given to share. However, it is the one gift that we sometimes treat with the least respect. We hold back love due to sins of pride, prejudice, and apathy. We distort and manipulate love for our own gain and selfish desires. We can find ourselves placing more importance on the things for which we have taken out loans than the love that is eternal.
I am trying the best I can to get to a point where I no longer owe anything to banks and mortgage lenders. I don’t want to leave this world owing anyone for the earthly things I had in this life. But even more importantly, I realize the shame it would be to leave people behind that didn’t get enough love from me. There is nothing greater than love.
“Purity of heart is what enables us to see.” ― Pope Benedict XVI
I’ve always been fond of a scene in the movie City Slickers, a story of three friends who go on a cattle drive adventure to New Mexico to help sort out their mid-life problems. Billy Crystal plays one of those friends (Mitch) and Jack Palance plays the trail boss (Curly). A turning point for Mitch comes in a scene where he and Curly are riding horseback together.
Curly says to Mitch: “You all come up here about the same age, same problems. You spend about fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope and then you think two weeks up here will untie them for you. But none of you get it.” He continues: “You know what the secret of life is? Mitch replies, “No, what?” Curly then slowly holds up one finger and says, “One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [nothing].” Mitch then asks, “What’s the one thing?” And Curly answers, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
“Kierkegaard!” I exclaimed in the theater while my friends and movie goers around looked at me with puzzlement and annoyance. What I was referring to, and what no one else in the vicinity seemed to get, was the Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s book Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing. It is a sermon based on James 4.8 – “purify your hearts, you of two minds.”
Kierkegaard teaches us that to be pure in heart is to be single-minded and put away all double-mindedness. Do I want to be a Christian or not? Is my faith something that sits alongside other ambitions in life or does it direct all of my intentions? Is all my life directed toward what is good and what God wills for me or do I do that part-time?
Jesus Christ is our one and main thing and keeping focused on Him can be quite a challenge in a world full of distractions, but remember His promise: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”