Saturday, March 5, 2016

How much is enough?

When I first moved out on my own life was pretty good.  I worked several jobs to keep up with what few bills I had.  I drove this old beat up Dodge Daytona that had literally half a million miles on it.  It was so old that you had to be careful where you parked it.  If you parked facing downhill it was a turtle on it’s back.  No amount of friendship could repay the times my buddies had to push me out so that I could get into first gear and actually move the car.  Life was grand, wasn’t it?  I had internet.  Water… Power… I was getting a college education.   Had friends, family, and no one could ever accuse me at any time in my life of looking like I was starving.   I was working three jobs and putting a little money in the bank. It wasn’t enough.

That summer I got a job working as an electrician.  I intended to go back to college and get another degree after the summer... I started making what I thought was really good money.  My beloved cousin Becky and her husband Denver helped me to get a Geo Tracker.  I upgraded to faster internet, got a new computer, bought tools and clothes.  I still lived in the same run down house, and yes.. I was still very bad at managing my money so I never had any.. but life was good.  I had food.  I had a roof over my head.  Had people who loved me.  I was learning about God and going to services when I could.  I worked more and more, further and further away.  Overtime was better money so if I only got three hours of sleep a night that just meant more to spend!  And spend it we did.  It wasn’t enough.

I never went back to college. I got used to making more and more. Life was good. I didn’t realize how great those days were really, until one winter when I didn’t have anything.  As I said above, I’ve never been good at managing my money.  I spend it.  I give it away.  I buy things and give that away.  I consume it.  I like my food.  I like my trinkets and gadgets.  So as I stood over an old rusted out wood stove in the basement of my home, looking around at the walls that were only twigs and ground up dust, I was beginning to hit rock bottom.  I had always been comfortable.  Always had food.  In fact, if I hadn’t been so proud that winter I could have eaten at my mom and dad’s house.. they would have fed me… but there I stood cooking beans inside the tin can they came in.   Eating them with a pocket knife.  They were the best beans I’d ever had.   Hunger has a way of doing that to you doesn’t it?  No power.  No water.  No heat.  No insulation. Middle of winter.   My car was gone, long story that one.  I had my work truck though.  I had my per diem so I could eat during the day.   What I didn’t have was money to keep those comforts I had taken for granted.  

Then God led me to Illinois.  I met a woman who I cherish everyday of my life, and she gave me a family.  My life became affluent, rich, wealthy.    I’m still broke.   That’s the funny part.  I still am horrible with money.  I still spend it.  I still give it away.  I still want those gadgets and trinkets.  What God showed me though is that there is more to this world than just comforts, though I must admit having heat in the northern winter is a very nice thing.  He showed me that love, that relationship, that communion.. that’s enough.  Anything else is extra.

The Israelites were travelling the desert for forty years being led and provided for by God himself.  He poured out mana from heaven to nourish them.  He made water flow from the rock to give them drink.   When they began to complain it wasn’t enough?  He sent quail into their camps until they had eaten enough that it ‘ran out of their nose and they began to loath it.’  (Numbers 11:20)  He poured out his love on them.  Then offered them the promised land, all they had to do was trust.  It wasn’t enough.   God wasn’t enough.  They fled from the task.

So He led them around until they were ready. Prepared them to go into the promised land under the lead of Joshua.  They had been complaining about the monotony of their food source, of the mana itself… so he gave them fresh grain and bread from the new land.  He delivered the city of Jericho into their hand by miraculously making the walls to fall to the ground.  He had just given them this new land, promised them all of it, showed them the abundance of fruit and grain, and promised to be with them.  It wasn’t enough.  

Seven days they were in the promised land.  Seven days they marched around Jericho.  In seven days they had become successful and been shown that God was definitely with them!  For Achan though?  It wasn’t enough.  He wanted the silver and gold of the men of Jericho, so he took it against God’s commands.   Why are we like that?  God gives us more than enough.  When I first got out of highschool and moved out on my own?  I made $25 dollars a day.  I had everything I needed.  No debt.  A car.  Friends. Food.   A house.  Later I was making $50, then $100 a day, then $200… the more I made, the less I had.. the less time.. the less things.. the less friends.. less.   The more material my life became.. the less I had.

I was less thankful for all those things I had when I had them, you know?   I think that was the problem with the Israelites.. they weren’t thankful for what they had.  They had God himself!  He was feeding them, giving them to drink.. and it wasn’t enough.  Adam and Eve made the same mistake didn’t they?  They walked face to face with God in the Garden.  They weren’t happy with that.. it wasn’t enough.  Joshua led them into the promised land!  They were restored completely from slavery, out of the desert and back in right relationship with God! Things were back to normal, back to the way they should have been! It wasn’t enough.

I think we often forget that when we go to Mass.  When we hear this parable of the prodigal son we think, Yeah I know.. the sinner returns.. the brother gets mad.  Guess what though? I think we often have more in common with the older brother than those who are just coming to dinner for the first time.  Have you ever noticed how excited a convert is the moment he gets to receive Christ?  For that moment, if not for the rest of his life, God is enough!  How about for us as we go for our hundredth? thousandth? or even multiple thousandth communion?  Are we happy with it? Do we still cherish it?

In the Gospel the older brother complained because his father hadn’t cut up a fatted calf for him and his friends.  He takes for granted all the mercies and benefits he has had bestowed on him by his father over these years.  His brother has been lost, has not been present to receive dinner every night.  The older brother has.. he’s been fed every day, been given drink every day, been loved every day.  He has had the Father all to himself.. Yet here he is jealous the moment his brother comes home, and refuses to come in.  All of a sudden, it’s not enough!

God feeds us with the true bread, manna from heaven.  Are we being completely aware of what it means to receive that?  Are we taking it for granted that the grace is there every single day? That God is providing for us every day?  True bread, true drink, Jesus Christ himself; body, soul and divinity? Oh that we might never take it for granted, that we might never grumble of those things we think we need more of.. that like Saint Francis of Assisi we are satisfied with the least of all things.. with Christ himself.  

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa Theologica.  After finishing it he took it and placed it before the crucifix of God as if to say, God? Is it good enough?  He began to pray and listen for an answer.  He heard the crucifix speak to him and say, “You have done well.  What would you like as a reward?”  Saint Thomas replied, “Only you Lord, Only you.”  He is enough.

His servant and yours,

He must increase, I must decrease.