Twenty-eighth Sunday: Wants and Needs
He heard Jesus preaching. He believed what the Lord was saying. He saw him leaving. He ran up to him, knelt down and called Him “Good.” He asked what he had to do to obtain what he needed: eternal life. Jesus told him that only God was good. The man saw Jesus and recognized God. That should have been enough for him. Jesus reminded the man of the commandments. And then Jesus looked into the man’s soul. He saw the man’s desire for God. The Gospel says Jesus loved Him. He called the man to become an intimate disciple. “Come and follow me.” If the man had followed Jesus, he would undoubtedly be one of the great saints of the Church. He would be reigning forever with the Lord in heaven. But the man walked away. Sad. Miserable. Why? Because he would not give up his possessions to follow the Lord. I am certain that for the rest of His life, and perhaps for all eternity the man regretted his decision. He let his wants get in the way of his needs, or rather, his one great Need: to live in the presence of God.
It is amazing that technology changes, but people’s basic attitudes, their foibles, their misplaced priorities, all remain the same. Many people are more interested in having power than in serving. Look at the world leaders. Many people are more inclined to violence than to reason. Last week I spoke about how violence destroys relationship. And today the readings lead me to recognize how many of us, present company included, present priest included, are more inclined to sacrifice our needs for our wants.
Parents are very much aware of this. Children are always asking for something they want at the risk of losing something they need. It might be something as simple as a four year old wanting a pudding at 5:00 pm when he really needs to eat a full dinner with the rest of the family at 5:30. Or it may be a Teen wanting to go somewhere at night when he or she needs to complete school work.
We adults are far worse than children or Teens. Too easily we sacrifice our one great Need to fulfill our wants. We know that our happiness is dependent on the keeping Christ in the center of our lives, but we make excuses and step away from the Lord and into oblivion. Is this overstated? Not really. There’s a party at so and so’s on Friday. We know we shouldn’t go. The last time we were with that crowd we got sucked into doing things a Christian should not do. But we’ve had a difficult week. We want a break. What we really want is an excuse to be at that party. We tell ourselves that it will be different this time. We’ll stay in control. We won’t get roped in. So we go, choosing to be in what is an occasion of sin for us. And then our humanity wins the battle, and we lose. The wants of a night replace the Need of a lifetime.
Fill in the blanks: The want that controls me is_________. Is it an illegal substance, a questionable relationship, an atmosphere of sin? Is it the desire for more and more material possessions. What is it that leads us away from our Center? What is it that results in our sins? Is it our pride or our selfishness? Well, all sin has the elements of original sin in it. Whatever it is, no one is responsible for our fall except ourselves. We chose our wants over our Need.
And then, like the man in the Gospel, we become miserable.
God was very pleased with young King Solomon. The period of mourning the great King David was over. It was now time for Solomon to reign. His father had accumulated whatever Solomon would need to build a Temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. Solomon decided to make this the focus of his reign. Then God appeared to Solomon in a dream. You can read about it in 1 Kings 3:3-9. “I am delighted with you,” God said. And then He asked, “What is it that you would like, Solomon?”
And Solomon replied, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”
To this God said, “Because you have asked for wisdom, and not for a long life or riches or the lives of your enemies, I will give you a wise and discerning mind like no one has ever had before, as well as that which you did not ask for, riches and honor all your life.”
Solomon sought wisdom, but he already was wise. Solomon asked for what he needed, not for what he wanted.
What we need is the continual growth of Christ’s Presence within us. What we need is to grow so Christ like that His Life and our lives merge so that we cannot see where He begins and we end. What we need is to be made into an everlasting gift to the Father.
Why does God love us? Why? He loves us because he sees the His Son in us. The Father loves the Son and all who belong to Him. What we need is really a Whom. We need Jesus. We need Love. We need God. All three are the same.
In the silliness of our humanity, we sacrifice our one great need for our petty wants.
The first reading is from the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon. This prayer celebrating wisdom reminds us that we may have greater technology than our ancestors, but we are neither more nor less wise. Wisdom is dependent on our
treasuring our Center, Jesus Christ.
Today we pray, as always, for the courage to be Christian.