Priority to Christ
My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ
Peace be with you. What’s the first thing you do in the morning? What about the last thing you do at night? For most of us, we turn on the radio or television to see what’s happening in the world while we wake up a little. If you’re a little younger, you might unplug your smartphone and check facebook or Twitter and see who said what overnight. One of the hardest things we have to learn in our lives is how to set and honor priorities. Parents need to teach their children that they can’t spend all day watching TV or playing video games when there are other important things that need to get done like chores. A couple of weeks ago, I got an email that required a carefuly, well thought out response. I started working on it in the late afternoon and four hours later I was finally ready to push send. Now, I was glad that it wasn’t a phone call or a face to face meeting but I did have to question my use of time when it took four hours to complete. And the worst thing as I was thinking about it was that I knew it would demand another complex email the next day which ended up taking another three hours. I had to ask myself, in the end, if the responses deserved the priority that I was willing to give them.
Our readings today challenge us to reflect on this issue of priorities. In the first reading, it’s Elijah who is choosing his successor Elisha because God told him to. Now, I like the story of Elisha a lot. I like him partially because he was bald. But, I also like him because he was a person who made mistakes and learned from them. For instance, when called by Elijah to be the Prophet of the Lord, Elisha wants to say goodbye to his family. Now you might ask: What’s wrong with that? A similar thing happened in the Gospel. Someone felt called by God to follow Jesus but implied that he wanted to end up in some physical building in the end. Jesus assures him, as we know all too well in our cluster, that Jesus isn’t contained in buildings. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The next person wants to bury his father and receives the rather abrupt and, seemingly callous response to let the dead bury their dead. The last person, like Elisha, simply wants to say goodbye to his family. In all these situations, we may be tempted to think that either Elijah or Jesus wasn’t being fair in not allowing the person to take care of something that is high priority. But, think of it like this: imagine if you’re sitting there in your living room when the last number of the lottery is listed and you realize you just won a hundred million dollars. Would your first reaction be to call up a friend and say hello? Or call that friend who is sick and hope they feel better. Of course not. That lottery ticket would become your sole priority and everything else would become secondary. That’s the reaction that the Lord has in each of these situations.
A couple of weeks ago, the priests of this Archdiocese gathered with our Archbishop to learn about the issue of internet addiction and, in particular, addiction to pornography. I was very surprised to learn that 50% of marriages end, in part, because of one of the spouses involvement with pornography. It has a way of drawing people deeper and deeper into it searching for that next, better “high.” Technology has made setting priorities difficult. Now don’t get me wrong. Technology can be used for good things like taking the time to give a thoughtful response to a question that demands it. But it also has a tendency to want to take over our entire life. So, how about giving the first hour of the day over to the Lord? Don’t turn on the radio or television and just leave that smart phone on the charger. Instead, take some time to read sacred scripture or pick up those beads and pray a rosary or take out your favorite prayer book and pray those treasured prayers. Now, I know what you’re going to say. You’re thinking that you’re just not a morning person and, trust me when I tell you that I have nothing but sympathy for you. Anyone who has gone to 7:30 mass on Friday morning in Britt knows that I tend to show up at 7:27 or so just giving myself enough time to throw on my vestments before mass. I don’t like mornings. So, give the Lord the LAST hour of your day. Shut off the computer and television and do all that I suggested the others do in the morning. Give the Lord priority in your day to remind yourself what we all can’t do without.