Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
What I am about to say is very old news. Our nation is in financial crisis. Our families are dealing with many serious financial issues. We get them every day at our Parish. Families that have been thrown out of their apartments, their homes, and even their cars!
We see it all. You have the sincere. You have the insincere.
Just a few days ago I had an individual call me on the emergency line asking for help. He reportedly received a call from CPS asking that he pick up his children from their mother’s home. She had somehow or another lost the right to have the children live with her. I don’t know the details, but he was desperate for money so that he could get over there. He asked for some gas money. That was this past weekend. I was able to help him with the help of some parishioners. On Monday he called me and told me that he wasn’t able to get them because of some technicality. I told him to start asking family and friends for money. I politely told him I could no longer help him. I began to sense some insincerity on his part.
Another was looking to get to South America and needed some money for the trip. I told this person that due to the economic crisis, St. Vincent de Paul Society was first and foremost helping families stay in their homes and pay their bills, especially food bills. Of course the individual was shocked that I could not help. I asked, “What’s the purpose of your trip?” The answer was to visit a dying brother in the hospital. Again, I asked them, “Do you not have any brothers or sisters, friends or neighbors, or children that could help you?” This person replied, “No…No one speaks to me.” I then realized that this person’s problem was not so much getting to her destination but rather getting to her Final Destination!
My experience is this: The people who need help never ask for help. You have to force it out of them. You have to pull their teeth to get it out of them. My experience is also this: Our associations, like Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul, do excellent work shifting through the poor, the needy and the greedy. They do a better job than any of us, period. They are very well trained and have seen it all!
The Lord saw it all too! He came into contact with many men and women seeking to follow Him. Some hoped to follow for the obvious reasons; others for not so obvious reasons. Even the Lord had to shift through the opportunists, the attention seekers, the insincere, and the lunatics. How did he do it? By setting the bar high! “Let the dead bury their dead…Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” The Lord sought only those who could say, "I consider all things so much rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him." (Phil 3:8)
And still, with the bar set high, one got through: Judas.
Recently, I briefly watched with disgust and horror some televangelist with dyed hair, a super expensive suit, and a dog sitting on his lap (I really though the dog was drugged…it never moved) selling “miracle water” in order for people to reduce their debts. His wife, sitting by him, simply nodded her head every five or ten seconds in agreement or on cue. It was a simple reminder to me why priests vow poverty, chastity and obedience.
Before the Protestant Reformation, it was a scandal when a priest broke his vows. Today, it is a scandal that he has to keep them! Let us not forget that it was rebel priests that started the Reformation and it is rebel priests, especially in Ireland and Austria, that are calling for an end to the vows! History repeats itself over and over again. Those who are pushing for reforms within the Church ignore the results of the reforms already made in the Protestant mainstream denominations. They are ignoring the fact that they are collapsing. Obviously, a break in the vows is not an answer to evangelization!
It all goes back to what is important or what is more important: God or Mammon? The debt that most of us are experiencing can best be explained as an unwillingness to give up what is less important or essential. The Lord reminds us that the worst debt is the imbalance created when our material attention, focus and desires outweigh or spiritual attention, focus and desires. It is also created when we forget the debt owed to the Lord who saved us from our sins and called us to follow Him and to be like Him.
Finally, my experience has been this: When we lose what we value most, we begin to search for what is truly of value. These are the moments that test men's souls, and the moments that bring men's souls closer to Him.