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Mal 3:19-20a; 2Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
33rd week in Ordinary Time
When I was about 10 years old, my younger brother and I played the game of “Monopoly” with my grandfather. Monopoly is a rather complicated game and my brother was probably about seven years old and couldn’t have really understood the rules. After we had been playing for awhile, the inevitable happened. My brother landed on my most expensive property and owed me much more money than he had available. Just as I began to celebrate my victory, my brother began to cry, and my grandfather slipped him the play money he needed to pay me. Rearing up in all the self-righteous anger I could muster, I stormed away from the table loudly proclaiming that never again would I play with such a bunch of cheaters.
I hope that I apologized to my grandfather for my rude behavior, though I must confess I don’t remember. (I can’t imagine my mom letting me get away with it, however, if she heard me.) But I know that it took me years before I came to understand that my grandfather had taught me a lesson in Compassion and Humility that day. You’re not a winner if you make someone else miserable in the process.
This story came to mind as I read Malachi’s words: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evil doers will be stubble…..” It’s a powerful image, calling to mind a wildfire sweeping through a field, leaving nothing but charred remains of what once were abundant crops in its’ wake.
I understand what Pride – in the sense of arrogance- feels like when I think back on my boyhood story. From my point of view, all that was right and holy was connected in my mind with my winning that game of Monopoly. It didn’t matter that I held an unfair advantage. It didn’t matter that my grandfather’s actions were motivated by love, and a desire for real fairness. All I could see was the injury being done to me.
I would like to think I have made, by the grace of God, some moral progress since that day. But I’d be kidding myself – wouldn’t you be, too? – if I thought that the tendency to confuse my desires of the moment with God’s desires ended when I left childhood. This week, I’m going to sit with Malachi’s image of the devasted field for awhile. Because all we win when we idolize our own selfish strivings for power and glory is a devastated heart and a devastated world filled with the charred remains of the abundant good that might have been.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
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