The story is told of a father who took his child to an air show. Before they left for the air show the father gave the child $5.00 and told him that he could spend that $5.00 any way he wanted. But there was a caveat, that $5.00 had to include whatever food the child would want to eat. If he wanted a hot dog and chips that would cost $1.50, a drink would cost $.50… and the like. Well, as you can imagine, at an air show there are all sorts of little trinkets a person could purchase: pictures, mugs, pilot scarves and other things. As this young boy walked through the show his mind was filled with all sorts of things he could buy. And then he came upon the one thing he really wanted… a toy helicopter! It was cool. The blade could spin on the top and the rotary blade could spin on the back. It was black with red stripes and it had missiles and machine guns on it. But… it cost $5.00. The dad saw the boy wanting this helicopter and reminded the boy that he only had $5.00 to spend and that they hadn’t eaten lunch yet. The boy still wanted the helicopter. The dad showed the boy that the helicopter was made out of a cheap plastic and really wasn’t the best toy to buy. But the boy still wanted the helicopter. So the dad tried one last time to tell the boy that this wasn’t the best idea but the boy persisted. After all, the dad said he could spend the $5.00 anyway he wanted. So the boy bought the helicopter. Happy to have the helicopter the boy immediately started flying it around in his hand. He would hold it out in front of him next to helicopters off in the distance to make his toy look as big as a real helicopter. He would fly the helicopter way high, down low, pretend that he was in battles and make it go really, really fast. Caught in his imagination he began chasing an enemy copter, “sczhummm… ttt.ttt..tttt..” and as he turned to dodge an imaginary missile he accidentally flew his helicopter right into a chain-link fence. Oh no! The helicopter didn’t only break a little bit… the propeller snapped off, the tail fin completely broke and the helicopter couldn’t be repaired. His $5.00 was wasted and he was heartbroken and he remembered that his dad told him that it was a cheap toy and that it wasn’t worth buying. To make matters worse, the boy also remembered that it was almost lunch time and he hadn’t eaten anything… he was hungry and sad. In a very real way, we are all this little boy. Our Father in heaven has bestowed on us the very precious and gracious gift of life. But like the five dollars the boy was given, we too have a choice to spend it the way we want. How are you “spending” your life? Are you spending it on cheap, counterfeit things, that last only a little while but then leave your soul sad and hungry? Or are you spending it on truly eternal things, things that will satisfy… things that will last? Like the father in the story, our heavenly Father has not only given us our life to spend it as we choose, but he has also taught us about the difference between what is truly lasting and what is not. He reminds us in the Scripture about what is good and what is bad. He teaches us through the Church what is truly worthwhile and what is counterfeit. And he pricks our consciences to warn us not to choose evil, finite things, but to choose holy and eternal things. But in the end, like the boy, we are free to make our own choice. We are free to spend our life as we choose. In fact, one psalm says, “I will give you your heart’s desire.” Think about that for a moment. God will give us our heart’s desire. What does this mean? Well, like the boy in the story, if we desire cheap things and pretend that they will give us happiness… God will give us those cheap things. But if we desire really good things, things that will truly satisfy, then God will give us those good things. Sometimes we think God is this exacting judge who is angry at us and is wanting to push the smite button any time we make a mistake. But what if God is simply a Father who teaches us, guides us, warns us… but in the end lets us make our own choices? Choices have consequences and, like the Father in the story, God outlines the consequences for us. But he never forces us to do what we choose not to do. So what does your heart desire? Finite things? Lasting things? Jesus warns us in today’s second reading not to ‘store up treasures of the last days’ meaning things that will decay and destroy. Rather, elsewhere in the Scriptures, Jesus tells us to “store up treasures in heaven,” meaning things that are eternal and that truly satisfy the human heart. In our second reading our heavenly Father, like the father in the story, teaches us about the finite things promised by the world that are in fact cheap and unable to satisfy: “Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded…you have lived on the earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” Wealth, clothes, gold, silver, luxury, pleasure… all these things are nothing more than a plastic helicopter… they look cool but they are in fact cheap, fake and are only “real” in an imaginary world. In our psalm our heavenly Father goes on to teach us a little prayer, “From wanton sin restrain me.” Do you know what “wanton sin” is? It is deliberate and unprovoked sin, especially of a sexually immoral kind. Our heavenly Father taught us a prayer that gives us words to avoid sexual sin. But unfortunately our world is steeped in sexual sin. Lustful commercials, pornographic pictures, perverted chat rooms, soap operas that fantasize about adultery, magazine articles that glorify vanity and stoke the libido. All of these things come through websites, smartphones, ipods, gaming systems, TVs, cinemas, instant messaging, snapchat, texting, parlors, magazines… not to mention group meetings intended to discuss immoral thoughts or actions. Do not be mistaken, such things are a cheap helicopter. They will yield no true joy. These are all wanton sin. They try to promise satisfaction, relaxation, contentment or joy. But they will only lead depression, frustration, anger, fighting, unfaithfulness, and a conscience that is burden with a sense of hypocrisy – “I say I am a Christian, but I do not live like a Christian.” This is the very reason why Jesus Christ warns us not to do such things! “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off… If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off… If your eye causes you to sin… pluck it out.” By saying this Jesus is NOT telling us to physically hurt ourselves but he IS telling us to get rid of all the avenues of temptation that pursue us. Cutting of the hand means cutting of all the desires to TAKE things that are illicit or fake: money, clothes, gold, luxury, pleasures. Cut out the desire for worthless things… and our American society is filled with worthless things. Cutting off the foot means cutting off the desire to GO PLACES where we should not go: chat rooms, parlors, gatherings of gossip, immodest clubs, immoral shops or stores, or any place that could cause you to deny your baptism or your marriage vows. PROTECT YOUR VOCATION. Cutting off your eye means removing the desire for EVIL IMAGES from your life: lustful glances, immodest or vain dressing, photos, movies, picture messaging, immodest selfies. Our society is inundated with lust things… we must protect ourselves from them. They will not fulfill! They will not satisfy! The will not bring contentment! Don’t reach for them. Don’t walk to them. Don’t click the button. Protect yourself from them. They will only bring isolation, division, anger, depression and bitterness. This world wants you to “buy” these cheap things but they won’t satisfy. Whatever pleasure they seem to bring will only last a brief moment but their end is bitter disappointment and a crushed spirit. Jesus calls all these things “treasures for the last days.” And St. Paul tells us to flat out run from immature lust and to pursue righteousness (2 Tim 2:22). Like the Father who warned his son about the consequences of his choice so too our heavenly Father in today’s readings warned us about the consequences of such choices. He told us that our inordinate desires for wealth, clothes, gold or silver “…will devour our flesh like a fire.” Our desire for luxury or pleasure “…will fatten our hearts for the day of slaughter.” And those who do scandalous evil, causing others to sin by “wanton sin” “…will be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” And our heavenly Father even tells to be afraid of these things “…weep and wail over your impending miseries.” And this is also why our entire Mass started by saying that our heavenly Father, “manifests his almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy.” Our God doesn’t want to condemn us, he wants to forgive us! He wants us to be truly satisfied. Not only did God warn us about the consequences of evil choices in today’s readings, but he also told us about the consequences of a holy life. The psalm tells us: the law of the Lord refreshes the soul… the precepts of the Lord give wisdom to the simple… the fear of the Lord endures forever… the ordinances of the Lord are true. God’s law, God’s precepts, God’s ordinances, the fear of the Lord… these are the real food for the soul. These are no cheap helicopter. These are the lasting things that are worth spending our lives on! And this is how we should spend our lives: pursuing good and avoiding evil. Cutting sources of temptation out of our life and filling our lives with holy actions in love of God and neighbor. This is why our psalm goes on to pray: from hidden faults cleanse me, from wanton sin restrain me, let me be blameless and innocent of serious sin! My family! You have been baptized, washed in the waters of life, and anointed with the Spirit… I beg you… avoid sin and lay ahold of goodness! Live like the Christians you have chosen to be. Do not live with a divided heart but let your heart be focused on the Lord. Rid your lives of everything contrary to the Gospel and set your heart on true treasures that will last for eternity. Our Father has given us life, he has taught us how to use it, he has warned us not to use it wrongly… but in the end you are free to choose how you will spend your life. Choose wisely! God will give you your heart’s desire.
SIRACH 22:27- 23:6
Who will set a guard over my mouth,
an effective seal on my lips,
That I may not fail through them,
and my tongue may not destroy me?
Lord, Father and Master of my life,
do not abandon me to their designs,
do not let me fall because of them!
Who will apply the lash to my thoughts,
and to my mind the rod of discipline,
That my failings may not be spared
or the sins of my heart overlooked?
Otherwise my failings may increase,
and my sins be multiplied;
And I fall before my adversaries,
and my enemy rejoice over me?
Lord, Father and God of my life,
do not give me haughty eyes;
remove evil desire from my heart.
Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me;
do not give me up to shameless desires.