Fr Richard Leonard SJ.

Today’s Gospel teaches us that our Christian life should be marked by five characteristics, that we: willingly share with those in need; are ready to act justly; stay alert to the presence of God in the world; guard against those people or things that can rob us of our faith; not abuse others but live in peace. With or without a sense that Jesus is due back at any minute, the Christian life is meant to focus on the essentials.

Two thousand years later we are still waiting for Jesus’ return and many of us live complicated lives that rob us of true happiness. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy for us to reassess what we have been given. A student at the Columbine High School, who was injured in the shooting, wrote this somber reappraisal of how he sees the world and what he thinks we should be passing on to the next generation:

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.

“We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but less solutions; more medicine, but less health.

“We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our value; we talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.

“We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet our neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space; not inner space, we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice. We have higher incomes, but lower morale; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

“These are the times of tall men (sic), and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic violence; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

“These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. It is a time when there is so much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.”

We all know the world is not quite so neat, not so either/or, but these words focus the question well enough: what are the essentials of our life, or as Jesus puts it, what is our treasure and where is our heart?

© Richard Leonard SJ.