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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Seeking satisfaction in the things of the world will lead to disappointment

Scripture encourages us to find and judge things against another, deeper horizon

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We read from some of the wisdom books this week — Proverbs and Ecclesiastes — and I think they contain some wisdom for All Things New.

For example, the author of Ecclesiastes says: “What profit has a man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun?” In an earthly perspective, the answer is: He doesn’t accumulate that much! So, on that level, maybe it’s not worth all the labor. But, from a deeper perspective, we might answer: If he finds the right work, then the joy of doing it — and serving the Lord through it — is profit enough.

And he says: “One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.” In an earthly perspective, this seemingly endless cycle of birth and death can seem pretty futile. But, from a deeper perspective, we might answer: Those who find the way to heaven do not pass away. They remain forever with God.

And he says: “The sun rises and the sun goes down; then it presses to the place where it rises … Nothing is new under the sun.” In an earthly perspective, it can seem like nothing ever changes. But, from a deeper perspective, we might answer: Yes, but hearts get filled with the love of God, friendships are formed, people are faithful to God in big things and in small things, and all of that is ever fresh and new in the eyes of God.

Be careful here: It’s not that the author of Ecclesiastes is wrong! Far from it — this text is inspired Scripture! But you have to read these passages the right way. The author isn’t saying that everything is futile, nothing matters. Rather, the author is saying that if you seek satisfaction in the world, you’ll end up disappointed. That’s absolutely true! And the challenge it contains is equally important: Then, we have to seek a deeper horizon against which to judge things. And that’s why the Psalm that follows every reading from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes this week is some form of exhortation to find our refuge in the Lord — to find and judge things against another and deeper horizon.

There, I think, is some wisdom that can help us with All Things New.

As we enter into the parish listening sessions in October and November, we need to ask ourselves: Against what horizon are we judging our path forward? If “the stability of buildings and organizational structures” is our primary horizon, then all the change we’re contemplating can only seem like a failure and a threat. If that’s our horizon, we won’t have fruitful conversations!

But, if we take a lesson from the wisdom books, we can look for another and deeper perspective. I think our horizon needs to be the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of disciples.

What will best serve the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of disciples in every square mile of the Archdiocese of St. Louis? I propose we take that question as our horizon. I think we’ll have deeper and more fruitful conversations in the coming months if that’s the horizon against which all of our conversations about change take place.

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