Below is a sermon delivered by Dr. Lewis Patsavos at our church on Cheesefare Sunday (the last day before Lent):

“VALUES IN LIFE”

SERMON FOR CHEESEFARE SUNDAY

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy (them), and where thieves dig through and steal. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy (them), and where thieves do not dig through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mt. 6:19-21 In this excerpt from today’s Gospel reading, our Lord among other things warns against the pleasures which can be stolen away. All material things are like that. None of them is secure. And if we build our happiness on them, we are building on a most insecure foundation. Suppose we live life in such a way that our happiness depends upon material possessions and then we lose them. Life is filled with examples of the losses which people sustain either by theft, negligence, or natural disaster. If we have built our happiness on them and they have suddenly vanished, then with our material possessions happiness, too, has gone. If anyone is wise, that person will build happiness on things which cannot be lost, things which are independent of the chances and changes of life. The person whose treasure is in things is doomed to disappointment and bound to lose that treasure, for in things there is no permanence, and no thing lasts forever. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Here is a saying repeated time and again by our Lord throughout His ministry. It is a truth of which we should remind ourselves whenever we are not clear on our priorities. In the struggle for wealth and material things, we often lose more than dollars and cents. There’s a trade-off: we lose a direct sense of dealing with each other, and the most profound questions people raise within themselves. In that very struggle, we tend to crush out, or thrust aside, the things that are most important in life and that sustain all of us – love, faith, the need to hope and fulfill dreams. It is quite possible for a person in one sense to make a great success of life by amassing a fortune and achieving fame, and in another sense to be living a life that is not worth living. The question to be put to ourselves is: “Where do we put our values in life?” We may put values on the wrong things and discover it too late. We may gain all the things we ever set our heart upon, and then awaken suddenly one morning to the realization that we have missed the most important things of all. A person may sacrifice honor for profit. We may desire material things without having any scruples about the way we acquire them. The world is full of temptations towards profitable dishonesty. As used here, the world stands for material things as opposed to the things of God; and of all material things there is this to be said: We cannot take them with us at the end; we can take only ourselves; and if we degraded ourselves in order to get them, our remorse will be bitter. They cannot help us in the shattering days of life. Material things will never mend a broken, desolate heart or cheer a lonely soul. If by chance we gained our material possessions and wealth in a way that is dishonorable, the day will come when conscience will speak, and we will know the agony of guilt and condemnation. The world is full of voices crying out that he/she is a fool who seeks happiness in material things! We may sacrifice principle for popularity. It may very well be that the person who is always flexible, easy-going and agreeable will be spared much trouble and discomfort. It may also be that the person inflexibly devoted to principle will be disliked. The real question however, the question all of us will have to face in the end is not “What did people think?” but “What does God mandate?” It is not the verdict of public opinion but the verdict of God that determines our destiny. We may sacrifice the things in life which endure for what is trivial and of instant duration. Life always has a way of revealing the true values and condemning the false as the years go by, because something base never lasts. We must learn to spend our life, not hoard it. The whole range of the world’s standards must be changed. The questions we ask ourselves ought not to be: “How much can I get?” but “How much can I give?” Not “What is safe?” but “What is right?” Not “What can I get away with?” but “How much more can I give?” We must realize that we are given life, not to keep for ourselves but to spend for others; not to nurture its flame but to extinguish it for Christ and for our neighbor. We must always remember that what is selfishly hoarded is lost, but what is generously given away is richly rewarded. Such has always been the teaching of the Christian faith. The Early Church always lovingly cared for the poor, and the sick, and the distressed, and the helpless, and those for whom no one else cared. The Church has always taught that “what we keep, we lose, and what we spend, we gain.” To repeat what was said earlier: the only thing we can take out of this world into the world beyond is ourselves; and the finer the self we bring, the greater our reward will be. If everything we value and set our heart upon is on earth, then we will have no interest in any world beyond this one. If all through life we see things in the light of eternity, then we will hold lightly the things of this world. If everything we count valuable is here, then we will leave this life with great reluctance. If our thoughts have always been focused on the world beyond, then we will leave this life with spiritual joy, because we go to God. Our Lord never taught that this life was unimportant. But He said and implied over and over again that its importance is not in itself, but in that to which it leads. This world is not the end of life, it is but a stage on the way. We should therefore never lose our heart to this life and to the things of this world. Our eyes should be forever fixed on the world beyond. May our spiritual journey throughout the lenten season about to begin help us in this effort. AMEN. Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos Professor of Canon Law, Emeritus Holy Cross School of Theology

 

 

 

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