Sixth Sunday of the Year

Posted on Feb 19, 2019

17 February 2019

As a transitional deacon I was assigned, for six months, to St. James Parish in Wausau. While I was there, I used to visit this elderly couple who were, I thought very poor. I’d take First Friday communion to them and always  remember always feeling sorry for them.  They lived in a ramshackle a three room affair–bedroom, combination kitchen/living room and bathroom. They were pleasant enough people though, easy to be with, and faith-filled especially as the man was dying of cancer. Frankly, I was quite touched by the two of them.

Eventually, the man died. The day after his funeral his wife called me, she was quite agitated, she wanted to see me. I went over to her house, looked again at the rickety porch and wondered if now that her husband was dead she would be able to afford even this place.

As I came in the house she was walking around, clearly upset. She gave me a piece of paper, “Look at that, just look at that.” It was a bunch of numbers and I couldn’t really make any sense out of them. “What do these mean?” I asked.  “I’m rich.  I’ve always been rich.  Harold never told me we were rich. I’m a millionaire, Father, a millionaire. He was a b——, for lying to me.”

A few weeks later she showed up in church with a big mink coat and a huge diamond on her finger.

After church I asked her if she was going to move. “No, Father,” she said, “I’m not going to move.   I’ll fix up the place a little, but it’s fine for me. Being poor isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it does teach you what you need and what you don’t need. At my age I need God more than I need a new house.”

Sometimes we get it all wrong as Christians. Jesus didn’t glorify poverty. He loved the poor but didn’t tell them to stay poor.          

He blessed those who weep, he didn’t tell them to weep forever. What he did do was counteract the popular culture which said the rich were blessed, and the poor cursed. Jesus knew, as did my friend Helen, that rich or poor, you can lose sight of God.

The question of the week is this: By all accounts we are the rich of the world. Our wealth can give us more time for God–does in fact give us more time for God, and yet as a society we spend less time on God. Probably even as individuals we spend less time praying today than we did ten years ago, are less likely to make it to church every weekend. Why?  What has become more important?