What Matters

1 August 2010 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2:21-23; Psalm 89; Col 3:1-5; 9-11; Luke 12, 13-21

There are many questions we ask repeatedly. What will make me happy? What will give meaning to my life? What direction should I take? How am I going to pursue what I desire? All of these questions will lead us to discern which among our experiences are more valuable than others. Which among our values are vanity and which among them are eternal.

The movie, Inception (2010) brings us into the deeper recesses of our subconscious. Cobbs (Leonardo di Caprio) and his team enter different layers of people’s dreams; into their innermost desires. Two things are important for the purpose of this homily (I will not release a spoiler for those who have not watched it yet). Cobbs’ innermost desire is to return home and to spend time with his children. Mr. Fisher’s innermost dream is the affirmation from his father to be “his own man” (to become who he is). His father’s last words was “disappointed” --- frustrated that his son tried to become like him. The truth is, he would like his son to forge his own path. And thus for both Cobbs and Fischer, what validate their realities are the people they cared the most.

That movie and all other literary genres including our epics, our written and oral histories, affirm what St. Paul has already articulated in his letter to the Corinthians. The answers to our questions of meaning, direction and joy are those that remain when all our achievements are gone and when our possessions have been taken away. For Paul, what remains are faith, hope, and love. What validates our existence is therefore what we believe in, what we hope for and whom we love deeply.

As in the first reading from Ecclesiastes, all things are vanities. The second reading tells us that all things of the earth will be taken away. Our investments are worthless when death comes, as the Gospel affirms. And so we must put all our energies on the most important things: faith, hope and love.

How do we find what is essential to us? We need to discern well. St. Ignatius of Loyola advises people to know what you desire. Technology and the introduction of new products have churned out more desires which we now call, our wishlist. They reconstruct our sub-conscious; they plant into our dreams new ideas that will make us see reality in a different light. The things that are actually vanities have become part of what is important to us today. In the past, we had lived without mobile phones and computers. Today, technology has set the bar for the obsolescence of people. We become passe if we do not know and use technology.

With the rapid shifts of desires, we struggle with what we want and what we need. We continually discern every day so as not to lose focus on what matters to God. The good thing about shifting desires and growing wants is skills-development: we are trained to discern what is more authentic to ourselves, what is deeper from what is shallow, what leads to God from what does not.

We are now challenged to relentlessly decide among a constellation of desires which among them are important; which are more important; and which is the most valuable among them all.

When we discover the most valuable, we discover the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, that which matters to God. If you find what you most desire, you will find what would give meaning, direction and joy in your life.

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