Lasting Things First

As you can imagine, I draw a lot of my inspiration for life, writing, and composing by observing that of others. This would include God’s Word—usually prompted by the Scriptures the Church offers as guidance each week in the Liturgy. When God is really animating a particular song, verse, saying or image in my mind, I usually feel the need to reach for one of my creative outlets (composing, writing, or even my ministry to the parish) and leverage it to share what the Lord is teaching me in those moments.

Like anyone whose position is to aid in the formation of the faith of others, I gravitate and specialize in some aspects or particular points over others. Where someone in this or that role may have a stronger or more heartfelt inclination to social justice issues, or the teaching of the Church concerning a consistent, seamless advocacy for human life, my own inclination is more to the nourishing of a very personal familiarity, or rather intimacy, with God.

Therefore, when one of my own “hot button” topics appears in a song or something I’ve read and can be woven into an understanding of the Scripture all at once, it is difficult to resist the urge to break out my soapbox.

In this instance, the itch I feel compelled to scratch is on the topic of priority. This is a topic about which any of the now-married couples my wife and I have mentored will remember vividly my harping. (I’m only joking. It comes up once, and I manage to restrain my own convictions beyond that.)

This Sunday, both the Gospel and first reading focus on a rather disturbing topic, however, that bears some explanation, in terms of the direction of my spin. The second reading is on a related, but tangential topic, in this case. However, the Psalm of this Liturgy hits it directly on the head.

Both Daniel and Jesus, as recorded by Mark, paint a foreboding picture of urgency as the world “falls apart” around their respective audiences. The Lord tells Daniel of a “time unsurpassed in distress” (Dn 12:1), and Jesus assures us that “heaven and earth will pass away” (Mk 13:31a) – startling reminders that the things we hold in such great esteem in this life can be as distracting as they are temporary.

The rest of the story is found in the tail end of Mark 13:31, wherein Jesus reassures that “[his] words will not pass away.” Likewise, but in more obscure imagery, Daniel is told that “the wise shall shine brightly…and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. In short, all security, dependability, and safety for our very being is in the Lord our God.

The response the Church places on our lips is the refrain, “You are my inheritance, O God.” What a declaration! And yet that isn’t all:

  • O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,

you it is who hold fast my lot.

I set the LORD ever before me;

with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (Ps 16:5, 8)

  • Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,

my body, too, abides in confidence;

because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,

nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. (Ps 16:9-10)

  • You will show me the path to life,

fullness of joys in your presence,

the delights at your right hand forever. (Ps 16:11)

What I want to remind us of is that the simple reality of God, and moreover the personal nature of Jesus’s saving work, demands our full attention. These things matter first and foremost, and ought to be given greatest consideration always, everywhere, and in every part of our lives.

So, when we say and sing, “You are my inheritance, O God…my allotted portion and my cup,” it ought to cause us to reckon our own priorities. What do we give preeminence in our time and in the way we order our lives. In money, time, and anything of limited quantity, it is our responsibility to allocate our resources in a manner that is appropriate, based on areas of greatest need or highest importance.

Too often, we relegate Christ to a secondary, or even tertiary (or worse) position in the way we prioritize our lives. We dedicate time to this activity or that, and neglect our prayer. We concentrate our efforts and thoughts on objectively lesser pursuits, and neglect to pursue that loving relationship Jesus offers us. We sigh over wants and appetites, but do not realize that our hearts’ true thirst is for the love of God.

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