A Christmas scene: Wind-swept powder leaves delicate flowers frozen on windows. The wintry pollen forms soft banks and piles high on the pine branches. The thick, white layers swallow the usual cacophony of city sounds. It is a time of reflection; a time to recall those sage words of St. Augustine: “What does it profit a man to gain the world, if he loses his soul?” It is little wonder that those who measure their wealth in material things are often the emptiest this time of year. Television presents them with a steady stream of programming dedicated toward the truly beautiful possibilities of life – love, family, God; they wish for this same warmth in their own lives, yet do not know how or where to find it.
Material or financial success is not enough to truly lessen their burdens. Unfortunately, the most privileged often experience tragedy first before discovering what is truly most important: that it isn’t the material things that satisfy us, but it is our faith and our human connectedness that ultimately fill the human vessel with content.
In today’s society so much emphasis is placed on materialism and financial status. There are those in this world who seek to define themselves by these artificial standards and yet, as they acquire these material goods, their souls become more restless and unfulfilled because they have set their sights on nothing else. Consequently, they lack an absolute moral point of reference to help discern between right and wrong. Without this foundation, one merely lives from whim to whim, finding enjoyment only in moments of fleeting beauty.
When tragedy and hardship strike, these individuals are forced to ask the same question: If you place your passion in beauty, what happens when beauty vanishes? If you spin your life around objects, what happens when these objects crumble? If you place your faith in a loved one, what happens when that loved one dies?
It is only when we place our love in God that we create for ourselves an immutable foundation. It is this absolute moral reference point that allows us to move beyond the material trappings of society and follow the path toward authentic discovery.
Many feel they have no need to attend any form of worship service or do not realize their own restless longing for something more meaningful and significant in their lives. It is in church that we realize we are no more important than our poorest brothers and sisters in the eyes of our Creator. For He does not judge us upon our status in society or the stocks we own, but upon the goodness of our spirit.
This holiday season, we must realize that our Creator has indeed blessed us by giving us one another. We must strive to be our brother’s keeper and remind everyone that the greatest power we have is to touch and care for the human spirit. We sometimes forget this power and fail to share what we have with one another through word, prayer and deed. Sometimes this giving can take the form of a simple kind word on the street to brighten a stranger’s day or by serving Christmas Eve dinner at your local homeless shelter or nursing home.
Our actions also serve us in reverse. We realize that in the process of giving, we have received more than money can buy. When we give of our material wealth that we have spent so much energy acquiring, we realize that they are just things to be gained and given without worry that we have lost something of ourselves. We can replace a car or a house, but a human life is priceless.
In this life, we can only lose ourselves, and paradoxically so, when we try to gain the material things of this world. When will we wake up to the reality that all we truly possess and all we truly need is love and compassion for one another?