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Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

My dear encountered couples:

Jesus is trying to take our eyes off things of the world and focus them on the things of heaven. He wants us to stop chasing after that which is passing and give our hearts to what is lasting. The world and the things in it are merely temporary, Jesus Christ is here to stay. Do we really believe that? Or like Paul suggests in his epistle, do we prefer to continue fooling ourselves and hang on to desires and pursuits that are no more than illusions?

Many light-skinned people this summer, in spite of the well-publicized threat of skin cancer, are lying in the sun trying to become golden brown. Why? For many reasons, I suppose - among them being to look more healthy, to become more attractive to others, or simply because it makes them feel better about themselves. They did it last year, the year before that, and f or many years before that. At the end of each summer the suntan fades away and at the beginning of the next it is sought after again. It’s one of those many pursuits filled with illusions that takes up a lot of time and in the end accomplishes very little. If a fraction of the time spent lying in the sun or in a tanning booth were spent in the presence of Christ, what wonders of permanent beauty would take place in our souls!

Then there is the piercing of the body. Not only the traditional rings in the ears, but jewels in the nose, on the tongue, in the navel, and parts I would rather leave unmentioned are being pierced. The pain, I am told, can also be piercing. Why would anyone want to do such things to themselves? If not to be part of the crowd, like wearing jeans, the reasons are private and personal to those so engaged.

But like many fads and passing fancies, it takes up time and attention and offers illusions of a better life. It will pass. Jesus Christ will not.

We do a lot of things that we will see after we enter eternity to have been a grand waste of time. Looking back we will realize what it is we should have been doing instead. But life is a time for learning and growing and maturing; and maybe that won’t happen unless we do our share of useless pursuits. We learn from chasing rainbows, we gain knowledge doing what we think will make us happy but doesn’t, we grow in wisdom when we become successful in our pursuit of worldly fame and fortune only to discover it isn’t enough for us.

The pursuit and the obtaining of Jesus Christ is the only thing in the long run that will satisfy our desires. Our faith tells us here and now what many people take a lifetime to learn. The world does not offer, it cannot offer, for it does not have, what we really want. Only heaven does. And that is what Jesus is trying to tell the Jewish people whom he just fed with his miracle of the loaves and the fishes:

“You are not looking for me because you have seen signs, but because you have eaten your fill of the loaves. You should not be working for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you...

“1 myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again.”

We all have tremendous hungers in us. We desire the best there is, but all too often we settle for an imitation. If you want a diamond, would you settle for a rhinestone? If you want an oil painting, would you settle for a print? If you want All Fruit, would you settle for jelly?

I think you get my point. If we want true happiness, true love, the best of the best, we will want nothing other than what God gives us — Jesus Christ his Son. But I’m afraid we often settle for an imitation — a suntan, a ring in the nose, an orange drink containing only ten percent oranges. Let us seek and pursue Christ before all else and we will obtain our deepest desires.

“I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord,” writes St. Paul to the Ephesians, “that you must no longer live as the pagans do —their minds empty. That is not what you learned when you learned Christ. I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus: namely, that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on the new man (and woman) created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.”

Shall we stop, or at least cut down, the wasting of our time chasing after things that are passing and spend more time chasing after Christ? Let us acquire the habit of focusing more on what is permanent and much less on what is passing. Jesus Christ is today, tomorrow, and forever. This world will someday, and soon, be only yesterday.

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