EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME 20189
Once, long ago there was a young boy, Aurelius, who want to live in a world of affluence. From his earliest years, Augustine possessed an inquisitive mind and an attractive personality who set his sights on a career that would bring him both wealth and fame. To prepare for this prestigious career, Aurelius was sent to the best schools and studied under well-recognized teachers. He eventually became well-known as a philosopher and public speaker.
However, one impediment of Aurelius was his passions. His parents and any authority figure found it impossible to control him. He felt that he was unfairly treated when he was punished by his schoolmaster for refusing to do his schoolwork. Aurelius willfully stole fruit from his neighbor, not because he was hungry, but from the thrill of doing something not permitted. There was no adventure that he would not try. His attitude of being of privilege child continued into in his teenage years where Aurelius prided himself on his sexual prowess. Even after he fathered a son, Aurelius rejected the idea of marriage as he refused to be restrained by any obligation.
Aurelius did eventually find his fame as a public speaker; he became an advisor to the Roman Emperor. However, even with the fame, and the freedom to seek any pleasure, there remained an emptiness in his heart that nothing seemed to be able to fill. Although raised Catholic, Aurelius turned to several non-Christian religions searching for the elusive answers as to his existence. Aurelius had everything he could imagine, but it still was not enough.
When is enough enough? For those who suffer from the sin of greed, the answer would be ‘there is never enough.’ These individuals seek to acquire more and more, afraid that unless they have it all, they will not be satisfied. These people have become like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, who could never have enough. As the Cookie Monster, unable to stop eating, says, ‘More cookies, more cookies.’
Greed does not need to be just hoarding money. It can also be associated with the desire of accumulating possessions, fame, sexual conquests, compliments, and power. Aurelius exhibited immense levels of greed in his youth chasing his earthly desires. In the sin of greed, pursuing these pleasures becomes more valuable than any relationship. The amassing of more and more can easily control us if we are not diligent.
Indeed, we want to live comfortably and not be concerned if we will outlive our retirement money. We want to experience new things we have not done before, see locations that we have dreamed of, but when is enough enough? How many trips are necessary before we discover that essentially one place is not much different from another? How many things can we buy ‘to make our life easier’ before we discover that whatever it is, does not satisfy? Do we greedily accumulate experiences and things thinking that this the answer only to discover there nothing of lasting value?
As in the parable of today Gospel, there is a day of reckoning coming. For some, that day will be at death when there is no opportunity to amend one’s ways. Everything one had greedily accumulated and hoarded for his or her self-gratification now belongs to someone else. For others, that day of reckoning occurs sooner when they realize that the Lord is the only solutions to the desired that found deep within one’s heart. For those amending one’s way lead to the promise of the Kingdom.
Aurelius eventually discovered he could not relieve the ache in his heart that no human experience could soothe. While in the court of the Emperor, he listened to the homilies of the bishop of the region and acquired a growing interest in Christianity. Unfortunately, even with spiritual words of the bishop, Aurelius continued to struggle weighing whether to continue to live his earthly desires or turn to Christ who promises much more. One day, listening to a tiny voice that prompted him, Aurelius randomly opened his Bible and from a page read:
Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies, and drunkenness, not promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh. Romans13:13-14
He was astounded that this passage so accurately described his life. He immediately without further regrets became a Christian for he saw this as a sign from God to repent.
And who was this Aurelius? You probably know him better as St. Augustine. He struggled until his thirties with his greedy desires of fame and lust. St. Augustine, after leading a decadent life, then changed. When he concluded that the only way to fill that unsettling void in his heart was to seek out God, Augustine resigned his post as the Emperor's advisor. He left behind his sexual lust to become chaste. Augustine gave up all his wealth returning to his homeland, prepared to live in solitude as a monk. One of his often-repeated quotes from his conversion story, Confessions, is “Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you, God.”
Once St. Augustine placed his life into the hands of the Lord, dramatic changes occurred. Against his desires, he was ordained a bishop for Hippo in Northern Africa. St. Augustine, a prolific writer of the faith, was named a Doctor of the Church. St. Augustine achieved his fame not as the Emperor’s philosopher but as a saint who gave up everything and gained everything for his heat by the graces of God.
When is enough enough in your life? Ask yourself which kingdom do you seek, one of the earthly desires or the eternal kingdom? How beautiful are ways in which God can work when we turn from our earthly desires to opening our hearts and asking God to come into us so that he may act through us to exhibit his loving ways to all the world.
Deacon Dan Gilbert