Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino

 

Twenty-eighth Sunday: What’s On Our Bucket List?

 

            A few years ago a great movie came out starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson called The Bucket List. Perhaps you saw it. Two men who were dying but in temporary remission, one of whom was very rich, decided to make out a list of the things they wanted to do before they died.  It was really a great movie, even though we Catholics would have far more important things to write on your lists, the type of actions that would help us grow in closer union to God.  Still, there was an extremely beautiful scene in the movie.  The Jack Nicholson character made the huge step and was reconciled with his daughter with whom he had been estranged for years.  Then she showed him his little five year old grand-daughter.  He gave her a hug and a kiss.  When he left the house, he crossed off, “Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world.”

 

            The Bucket List has led a lot of us to consider the things we want to do and need to do in our lives. It also reminds us of some other lists we need to compile.  Even though we have had an easy hurricane season this year, at least so far, we all should have a list of what we would need to take with us if we had to evacuate.  It should also be prioritized.  People first, obviously, then the materials we would have the hardest time replacing, important papers, etc, and of course, those reminders of our past.  Actually, in this computer age, many of us would probably include a removal hard drive.

 

            The question today’s readings ask us is simply, “What are the most important things on our lists?”  In the first reading, Solomon responds to the invitation by God to ask for anything in return for his constructing the Temple in Jerusalem.  To the surprise of many, Solomon doesn’t ask for riches.  He asks for wisdom. Next to wisdom, he says, gold and silver are like mud.  But when he possesses wisdom, the Wisdom of God, everything else comes to Him.

 

            The rich man in the Gospel reading is asked about his list.  This is a good man. Jesus looked at the man and loved him.  The man who came up to Jesus and knelt down, was really serious when he asked. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He wasn’t trying to test Jesus, or catch him between two issues like the people who asked Jesus if it was right to pay tax to Caesar.  Those people knew that Jesus would get into trouble no matter what he said.  He wasn’t like the people who asked Jesus about eternal life.  They were trying to involve  Jesus in the battle between the Sadducees who said there was no such thing as life after death and the Pharisees who said  that there was eternal life.  No, the man in today’s Gospel was sincere.  He really wanted to have God’s life.  He told Jesus he had kept the commandments all his life.  Jesus knew he had.  That’s why He looked at him and loved him. 

 

            Then Jesus asked him what was on the top of his list. Following the Lord had to be more important than any of his possessions. Jesus offered him treasure in heaven.  What He said to the man shocked him.  It left the man in turmoil.  Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and then follow Him.  Jesus was offering the man a place among his closest disciples.  The man wasn’t ready for this.  He was surprised, perplexed and dismayed.

 

            What is on your list?  What is on my list?  What is there that we could not live without?  What is on that list that would leave us devastated if it were destroyed? If it is anything other than the lives of others, the presence of God in their lives and the Presence of God in our lives, or, simply, the Kingdom of God, then we really don’t understand what it means to be a Christian, to be a Catholic.

 

            Catholics, Christians are right now sitting in the cells of horrible prisons throughout the world.  Some have lost everything they owned and are waiting to lose their lives. Others have refused to sacrifice Christian for the sake of advancing in business and are living far more frugally than some of their workmates, yet all, those standing for truth in jail and those standing for truth in the rat race of business are living as rich people. They possess all that matters in life, the Presence of Jesus Christ.  At the other end of the spectrum, there are some who are living miserably in mansions, surrounded by every type of unfathomably expensive items, paintings, sculptures, with the best vehicles in their garages and a huge ship waiting for them in some Carribean port, but they are not happy because none of the possessions they spent their lives acquiring can give them happiness.

 

            “Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and shall not rest until they rest in you.”  St. Augustine in his Confessions.

 

            The readings today really hit us to the core of our lives.  They ask us to consider where we find meaning in life.  Scripture does that to us, doesn’t it?  The second reading from Hebrews 4 says that the Word of God is a two edged sword, by that it means one that is very sharp and very strong.  It cuts into us and uncovers the thoughts, reflections and desires of our hearts.

 

            All of us want to be happy. All of us want to live lives of meaning.  All of us want to finish our physical lives united to God.  To do all this we need to keep the priorities of life straight. God and His Presence in others must be first.  His love must grow.  His Word must envelope the world.  If we allow that to happen, God Himself will take care of the rest of our needs.  Solomon said that along with wisdom, all good things came to him.  Jesus promises that those who live only for His sake and the sake of the Gospel will receive a hundred times more than they gave up in this age and eternal life in the next.

 

            So what is on our lists, be they our bucket lists, or our evacuation lists, or our hope lists?   

 

            The Word of God, that two-edged sword, asks us today to consider where we are seeking happiness.