The Problem’s Trust Not Stuff
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 8:23-9:3:1

When I was a youngster, I had an aunt who, whenever I got upset about something, reminded me, “Joe, nothing in this world makes much difference. What matters is eternity: heaven or hell. That’s what’s important. Don’t fret about other things.”

Though few today use my aunt’s exact words, her ideas still echo in the on-going criticism that we’re all, especially we Westerners, too materialistic. This critique, broad and unfocused and thus easy to make, is also, I believe, misdirected and troublesome.

It’s true that we’re often self-centered and selfish. We’re also leery of spending much time pondering the meaning of things, not because we don’t care but because those who proclaim themselves arbiters of meaning are so often rigid, closed and angrily defensive about their views. We dislike the battle.

Still, I’ve never met a person who maintains that material reality is all that matters. I know lots of folks, on the other hand, who think that we either deal well with the material stuff of life or get everything else wrong. Jesus’ description of those who are one with God shows the importance he placed on effective stewardship of life’s stuff. “I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, thirsty and you gave me water, sick and you cared for me.” These are material needs and meeting them constituted Jesus’ criterion for inclusion in God’s Realm.

We may be greedy and insecure. We may limit the circle for which we care to a few folks with whom we identify. We may try to meet our need for love, community and purpose with stuff even though we know that stuff will never suffice. But we’re not materialists.

It’s time we lay that whipping boy aside. It’s more helpful and accurate to realize that we’re all burdened by a consuming anxiety for a love we do not trust. Our respect and passion for material reality is something we get right. It’s our fear of being unworthy of it that imperils us.