Philip Arthur Fisher was an American stock investor best known as the author of Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, a guide to investing that has remained in print ever since it was first published in 1958. He says, “The stock market is filled with individuals who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing."
This weekend's reading talks about spiritual investment. In the first reading from the book of Ecclesiastes, the voice of the narrator (Qoheleth) talks about “Vanity.” Qoheleth means one who gathers or preacher. The author identifies himself as the “Son of David, king of Jerusalem,” so the scriptural scholars say the author is Solomon.
Solomon sets out to pursue three common human goals, three pursuits to which many people devote their entire lives: 1. Pleasure or joy which we see in Ecclesiastes 2:1 “Come, now, let me try you with pleasure and the enjoyment of good things.” See, this too was vanity. 2. Wisdom which we read in 2:12-17 “What about one who succeeds a king? He can do only what has already been done. I went on to the consideration of wisdom, madness, and folly… Therefore, I detested life, since for me the work that is done under the sun is bad; for all is vanity and a chase after wind.” 3. Toil or labor for possessions which we read in 2:18-26 “I detested all the fruits of my toil under the sun because I must leave them to the one who is to come after me… For to the one who pleases God, he gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the one who displeases, God gives the task of gathering possessions for the one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chase after wind.”
Fr. Bloom reported from Krakow, 2016 World youth day. He says, Pope Francis is a big soccer fan and when he mentioned the sport, young people cheered. When he referred to the World Cup, it brought even louder cheers. Then he paused, looked at the sea of youth, and said, "Jesus is a greater prize than the World Cup!" Young people stood, raised their hands, and gave a sustained cheer.
Jesus is the one great prize. That's what we see in today's readings. In comparison to Jesus, everything in this world is vanity. Only Jesus has ultimate worth - and only in him does anything have value. The Ecclesiastes says, “Vanity of vanities,” “All is vanity.”
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the rich fool. This parable teaches that life centered on greedy ambition and satisfaction is empty of meaning. The fool is oblivious that his life will end, together with all his accumulated material possessions. Rich says “…so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). In the book of Sirach 11:19 says, “When they say: “I have found rest, now I will feast on my goods,” They do not know how long it will be till they die and leave them to others.”
Jesus is not disregarding his skills and ability to acquire wealth, but rather his selfishness. Jesus was called the rich fool because he lost his aptitude to invest wisely. His life was consumed with his possessions and his only interests were in himself. Jesus is not talking against wealth or rich, but he is talking about the use of it. A fruitful life involves charity towards others and detachment from material goods.
Our ultimate goal in life is to be eternally happy, not temporarily happy. Without God all life is meaningless. But with God, every aspect of our lives proclaims the reason for our creation: to know him, to love him, to serve him. He is our true treasure.
I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. It is moving fast. I write this note as a follow-up on the St. Anthony school building. We were thinking and praying about this matter for years. It took space in the Price County Review and Catholic Herald several times. I sent you letters informing the progress. Recently we had the 100th-anniversary celebration. A lot of people thanked me for the opportunity to walk through the building and reminiscing. I want to say thank you to the Parish and Finance Council, 100th Year Celebration Committee, KC, CCW and so many of you for making the celebration beautiful. Above all, I want to thank God for guiding us and blessing us with a beautiful day.
I hope all of you had the opportunity to participate in the celebration or read in the Price County Review or Catholic Herald. Our goal was to come up with a final decision on the 100th-anniversary celebration, but we couldn’t get there. As you know, the parish and finance council looked at three different possibilities for the school building: reopen, raze, or sell. Some of the things are repeated, but I want everyone to understand how we get to the final decision.
Last December we sent out a survey to explore the idea of reopening the St. Anthony School. 115 families participated in the survey. Of 115 families, 43 express the desire to reopen the school. 55 families answered no and the rest of them are undecided. In 43 families, 17 of them are younger families with children. We have 26 children who want to enroll in St. Anthony school. There were people who made promises of over a million dollars if we came up with a viable plan. They don't like to make any commitment until we have a viable plan. The survey was promising, but it was not enough.
Many people came and looked at the building to turn into apartments, a community center, YMCA, and so on. Most of them looked at the building to make apartments. Alpha Development Corporation gave us a purchase agreement to buy the school building to turn into apartments. As I mentioned before, the developer is interested in the school and the rectory. The developer stated that they would provide residency for the priest or give $150,000.00. The question we face as a parish is what we have for the future generation. The Parish and Finance council try to answer the question and come up with the best decision. If we sell the buildings, St. Anthony of Padua parish has nothing much left other than a parking lot. We need to look at the bigger picture, what we need to leave for the future generation.
We also looked at the cost of maintaining the building. We were spending 40,000.00 to 45,000.00 a year for basic maintenance like water and sewer, electricity, gas, insurance, and emergency repairs. Major repairs were on hold.
Finally, our discussion moved to the third option: demolishing the building. We approached different demolition companies for proposals for the demolition of the building. The lowest proposal is $ 300,000.00. The LEGEND Technical Service, Inc. is doing the asbestos/led inspection prior to the demolition. It was not an easy decision, but finally, the parish and finance council recommended demolishing the building. So, I wrote to the Bishop to inform the recommendation of the Parish and Finance Council and last Monday St. Anthony Corporate Board approved the demolition of the building. It is not an easy decision, but we pray and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we made the best decision in a given situation. We will be taking a loan for this project. If any of you can donate towards it or the parish can borrow money from you, please contact me (Fr. Shaji) or one of the Parish and Finance Council members.
This weekend's reading is perseverance in prayer. Abraham was persistent in prayer for the people in the Gospel and Jesus talked about the need for perseverance in prayer. In this difficult time, we need to come together and pray. When we pray together everything will be possible. So please message other people who are not in the church and invite them to join our Eucharistic celebration.
Hospitality to God!
The theme for this weekend is hospitality to God. The first reading and the Gospel painted very beautifully the hospitality to God.
Andrei Rublev, the great Russian icon painter, is famous for his work with his ‘Old Testament Trinity’: picturing the three angels welcomed by Abraham (Genesis 18 – today’s first reading). This icon is also called ‘Welcome to the Stranger’. The table where they are seated has four sides. There are three seated figures; the fourth is an invitation to join them. Anyone praying with this icon for any length of time will feel that the invitation is somehow mutual: as you welcome the Divine Persons into your heart, they are inviting you to sit at the table with them. They are inviting you into the heart of God.
In the first reading on a hot day, Abraham sits at the entrance. He might have been enjoying the breeze on that hot day. Suddenly, he saw the three men and he recognized that it is the Lord. Some of the Fathers of the church and Eastern iconography suggest that the three figures may be the manifestation of the Trinity. In the reading Abraham begged the visitors not to pass by, but stay, so he can serve the Lord. Then he ran to the tent and asked Sarah to prepare food for them. They both prepared a delicious meal and Abraham set these before the visitors. Both the ancient Jews and the early Christians believed that the best way to show their dedication to God was to be dedicated to hospitality. In the book of Hebrews 13:1-2, we read, “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”
After the meal, one of the mysterious visitors told Abraham that “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son” Genesis 18:10. If we continue reading, we can see that Sarah was listening and she was laughing. In Genesis 21 we read that God did what he promised, and they had a son Isaac. In Romans chapter 9, St. Paul talks about promises and choice. He quotes from the book of Genesis 18:10 to mention the promise of the birth of Isaac. The visitors who announced that Sarah would bear a child prefigure the Annunciation made by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. What is not possible from a human perspective.
In the first reading, Sarah is mostly involved preparing the food. We don’t see her out of the tent. Abraham is the one who spent time with visitors. In Luke’s Gospel 10: 38-42, we see Martha is engaged in serving and Mary is seated by Jesus. Martha honored God in work and Mary through her single-minded devotion. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus which means surrendered herself and gave total attention. It is part of learning. We read in the Acts of the Apostles 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel, I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.”
Two aspects of spirituality: first, doing something like Martha, and second, sitting and receiving like Mary. Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world and our parish churches need such dynamic and generous men, women, boys, and girls who get the job done. At the same, we have to adopt Mary into our lives too. The key to the Christian life is SETTING PRIORITIES: Jesus Christ first, then everything else. Active and busy, we have to find time every day to listen to God, our spouse, kids, and neighbors. Listening and quiet caring are essential for the success of pastoral life, family life, and every aspect of our life. Human love begins at home, and it begins with listening.
God is passing by my/your home. Do we invite him? Our heart is the place where he is welcomed. Mother Teresa often talked about the God appearing in disguise: poor and needy. We need to give attention to seeing who is passing by us. Abraham paid attention, so he didn’t miss the Lord.
Who is my neighbor?
On the Fifteenth Sunday, the readings answer the question "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). The first reading Deuteronomy reminds us that God gives us His Commandments in Holy Scriptures, but that they are also written in our hearts, and it is in your mouth, you just need to carry it and obey them (Deuteronomy 3:14).
Moses had led the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt and was with them for many years as they traveled through the Sinai desert. The book of Deuteronomy expresses three discourses largely: The first discourse (1:6-4:43) reflects on the lessons of the early part of the journey through the desert. The second discourse (4:44-28:68) reminds the people of the law, the Ten Commandments, their call to fidelity and their special relationship with God, and the details of the covenant with God and its religious, ritual, and moral regulations. The third discourse (28:68-30:20) issues another call to the people to “choose life” – to remain faithful to the covenant – rather than to choose death by turning away from God and removing themselves from his protection.
Moses knew he would die before entering the Promised Land, so he gave them last words of wisdom. The first reading begins with these words, “If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God” (Deuteronomy 30:10). Moses told them that God will bless them greatly, but one condition that they need to follow the voice of the Lord. What do we need to do to inherit eternal life? We need to heed the voice of the law.
In the Gospel, Jesus answers this question. Love God with all your being, mind, heart, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Then Jesus explains the next question who is my neighbor? Jesus illustrates the superiority of love over legalism through the story of the good Samaritan. When the scribe in this passage tries to test him, Jesus engages him in conversation. He praises the scribe for the summary of the law.
The parable of the Good Samaritan presents both a moral and theological lesson. Morally Jesus teaches that love for our neighbor must accompany our love for God. Theologically, Jesus illustrates that the holiness as defined by the Old Covenant is now surpassed by the holiness of the New. In this parable, the priest and Levite didn’t help the victim. They had their own reason. The book of Leviticus 21 explains the purity laws. The book of Numbers 19 gives further explanation of the law of purity. The law priest and Levite (the priests’ associates, who provided music, incense, sacred bread, Temple curtains, and adornments) were forbidden to touch the corpse of anyone other than immediate family members. If they become impure, they are supposed to purify by offering the sacrifice. Also, they will be disqualified for the Temple service. Thus, they saw the wounded man on the road, not as a person needing help, but as a possible source of ritual impurity.
On the other hand, the Samaritan who does typically not mingle with Jews came forward to help the victim. He ignored the long history of enmity between his people and the Jews and opened his heart and mind to help the needy. The Good Samaritan was taking a real risk since the robbers who had assaulted the traveler might still be nearby. But he gave first aid to the wounded Jew, took him to a nearby inn, and made arrangements for his food and accommodations by providing the innkeeper two denarii. Two denarii were two days’ wage which could be enough for several days of lodging.
St. Augustine says the parable signifies Christ’s restoration of mankind. Adam is the man attacked by Satan and his legion; he is stripped of his immortality and left dead in sin. The priest and Levite represent the Old Covenant and its inability to restore man to new life. Jesus Christ comes as the Good Samaritan to rescue man from death and brings him to the inn of the Church for refreshment and healing through the Sacraments.
Who is our neighbor? Are we ready to be neighbors like a good Samaritan? A question to ponder this week.