Dear friends in Christ,
Perhaps you have heard of St. Philip Neri? He was a 16th century priest in Rome, well known for his playful humor, his shrewd wit, and the elegant and gentlemanly courtesy that he showed to all. It is said that one day he met with an extremely talented young Roman named Francis Zazzera. St. Philip was asking Francis about his plans for the future, and the conversation went something like this…
St. Philippe: “So what are you planning on doing next year?”
Francis: “Finish my studies and become a famous lawyer.”
P.: “And then?” F.: “Gain a lot of money and start a family.”
P.: “And then?” F.: “Be an honored man and raise my children to be successful.”
P.: “And then?” F.: “Retire, and enjoy my last years in peace.”
P.: “And then?” F.: “Well, I guess then I will die.” And with a twinkle in his eye, St. Philippe replied: “And then….?”
All of the readings in this Sunday’s liturgy are about this: the brevity of life, and how we should use it to prepare for eternity. The psalm tells us what we all learn very soon: mankind is “like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades.” And we read in the first reading one of the most famous of all Old Testament quotes, “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity”. So what are we to do with this short life to make it worthy of eternal life?
Jesus’ response to this is simple: to store up treasure in heaven, to become “rich in what matters to God”. And what matters to God? I think a brief quote from the document of Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council sums it up beautifully: Then death will have been conquered, the daughters and sons of God will be raised in Christ and what was sown in weakness and dishonor will become incorruptible, and charity and its works will remain.
Yes, the only thing that we can take with us when we have to face the final “and then?” is what we have done with charity towards God and others. In our lives as members of Immaculate Conception Parish, we have many opportunities to do this, from giving generously in our Sunday donation, to helping in many of the activities that help our Parish flourish.
Let us ask the Lord to “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart”, and remember that the works of charity are those that last.
God bless you and your families,
Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.