[Don’t] rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth. Let them trust in the God who provides us richly with all good things for our use (1 Timothy 6:17)
When one works in the church for a number of years, one attends many funerals. Around funerals, one gets a kind of “bird’s eye view” of how people live[d] their lives.
This perspective has led me to the conclusion that there is one factor that contributes to personal happiness or personal misery. That one factor is that happy people are grateful and generous, and miserable people are rarely satisfied and live in fear of losing their possessions. I think that this understanding is highlighted in this weekend’s scripture readings.
I have worked alongside people of great wealth and distressing poverty. I remember one man who was a multi- millionaire who spent his retirement years giving away his money to charity and to ministries that spread the Gospel. His son died of cancer at age 21. When I was at that young man’s funeral, it was like a party, complete with a jazz band. Even in misfortune, he found joy because he knew his son loved the Lord and brought many young people to faith in Jesus. He gave thanks and was generous, even with his own dear son, in good fortune and bad. I also remember a woman who attended our JustFaith program who had next to nothing in material wealth. She would always bring coffee or a snack to our meetings. “I have two and only need one. I thought I would share this with the group.” She would call me to tell me she saw something at a yard sale and thought of one of my children. I would always be so humbled when she, who had so little, was generous toward us. She was one of the happiest people that I have ever met because she was thankful for the modest gifts she was given and always thought of other’s needs before her own.
Unfortunately, I have also attended the sad funerals of those who lived in misery. Some of them were quite “well off” in material possessions, but never found peace in their hearts and homes. When we become so focused on what we don’t have or come to see our value in terms of bank account, possessions, achievements, and the other things diabolically referred to as “net worth,” we create chasms between ourselves and the things that bring true happiness and meaning such as caring relationships. As I once heard it expressed, “The only time we should look in someone else’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough.”
During this time of Eucharistic Revival, it might be good to remember that the word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for Thanksgiving. What does it mean to become a Eucharistic person, a person of gratitude and thanksgiving? How does our Eucharistic participation in the mystery of Jesus’ redeeming death and resurrection and our reception of his Body and Blood make our hearts more like the generous, merciful heart of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve and to lay down his life for the life of the world? How can the Eucharist lead us into lives of true happiness?
Our bishop has given us an opportunity to put into practice the path to happiness alluded to in this weekend’s scriptures through the annual Christ’s Mission Appeal. This appeal calls us to stop and be thankful for the blessings God has given us this past year. It also calls us to generously share those gifts for the benefit of others. Christ’s Mission Appeal funds ministries bigger than one parish, such as marriage preparation, formation of seminarians and future deacons, outreach to university students and those in jail, and FAITH magazine. It funds programs that help hurting families through Catholic Family Services. It supports mission work around the world. It also serves our parish community through funding formation for Commissioned Lay Ministers and parish staff, so that we can serve you better.
The Christ’s Mission Appeal goal is $75,841. But for me, our real goal is 100% household participation. When we all come together, and thankfully and generously share our portion, Jesus can multiply it to bring happiness and peace to all God’s beloved daughters and sons. Please prayerfully consider your part in Christ’s mission of teaching, healing, serving, and spreading compassion and love and generously support this year’s Christ’s Mission Appeal.