- Eat Drink And Be Merry
Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. There are several places in holy Scripture where this sentiment is expressed. The one that has been bouncing around my mind since I heard it at Sunday Mass a few weeks ago pertains to the parable of the rich man who worked hard. He amassed so much that he had to build more silos in order to store it all. In the parable, the Lord rebukes him. Jesus relates to His listeners that just as he gets comfy and cozy and settles down to rest he will die and someone else will enjoy his labor. Was Jesus condemning hard working wealthy people?
The Silo Mentality
The Lord is not rebuking the industrious here. After all, if that we so, anyone with a 401k plan, an education savings or a pension would be His target. If we are smart, we save for retirement so we can enjoy a nice quality of life. I believe that is exactly what Jesus wants for us. Jesus gives us examples of the sin of being lazy or less than industrious. He uses material things to illustrate a spiritual necessity, but I think temporal preparedness goes hand in hand with spiritual preparedness according to ones state in life. A Franciscan friar for example would have different priorities than a father of five. Jesus gives us examples. The parable of the three stewards. Each received a different number of talents (money). Two invested wisely; the third was lazy, did nothing with his talent and he received a harsh rebuke from his master. The little he had was taken away. Then the Lord speaks of the wise virgins who made sure they had enough oil and were prepared when the bridegroom arrived. The unprepared virgins lost out. No, the Lord is not chiding people who are rich, smart or planners for the future, rather He is warning against the silo mentality.
All too often there are silos in our lives. Silos at work, at church, within families and among friends. When we shut ourselves off from others or fail to share the abundance God has blessed us with, we are guilty of that selfishness. This greed and selfishness is often portrayed in films. In fact, the fims that come to mind all center around Christmas. There is the “Christmas Carol”, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and “Miracle on 34th Street”. Each of these shows depict the harsh, cold, lonely and bleak existence of the selfish. Anger, resentment, frustration and a spiritual deadness accompany the characters. They all have one thing in common: they lack charity.
The Law of the Give
Sometimes there is redemption. When people discover the Christ in themselves and learn the secret to happiness, there is a metanoia commonly referred to in theological circles as “the law of the give”. I heard this in one of Bishop Barron’s YouTube Lenten homilies. He said “your being increases in the measure that you give it away.” The bottom line to this principal is that the more we give the more we get. This Law of the Give was perhaps unwittingly incorporated into those wonderful Christmas stories. The Grinch learned the true meaning of Christmas. Christ entered his heart and it grew 10 times as large (the law of the give in action). He became strong, selfless and loving. His being increased. Instead of taking away from the Whos in Whoville, he gave back. His reward was that he came to share in the life and love of the community he isolated himself from. Likewise, Scrooge learned that it is in fact more blessed to give than to receive. He was given a second chance at eternal life. The three spirits of Christmas showed him the harsh reality of his cold heartedness rooted in a sad childhood. All he had was material possessions and he was miserable. Hurt and loss hardened his heart. Faced with eternal damnation he realized the error of his ways and was redeemed. Scrooge got a second chance and learned the secret of the true meaning of Christmas. The law of the give.
Similarly in Miracle on 34th Street, Santa came to New York to awaken self centered, career oriented, busy distracted people to the “more” that God wants for all of us. Santa came giving. He gave love, wisdom and made people think about more than material things. He gave love, hope and happiness along with temporal blessings symbolic of how I think God wants to bless all His children. In the end, the cynical little girl and the cynical adults came to recognize God symbolized in the character of St. Nicholas a type of self sacrificing Christ figure. On the other hand, we see that Mr. Potter from “It’s A Wonderful Life” never learned. He remained stuck in his wheelchair, being hated and hating. Although there will always be Mr. Potters, there are many more redeemed Grinches and Scrooges and the good people who were and always remain charitable and selfless.
Halloween is over now and we are all gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas trees and decorations were up in stores at the end of September in New Jersey. It made me sad. Consumerism is winning the war. I thought of Miracle on 34th Street while walking around big box stores. The movie depicts the two Department Store rivals of Macy and Gimbal symbolic of corporate greed and consumerism. Today we see stores starting “holiday” seasons earlier and earlier to bulk up profits to satisfy shareholders. Times change but corporate greed remains a constant. Natalie Wood’s character portrayed a sad, lonely, affluent cynical child with no sense of the supernatural but only materialism. She symbolized then and now the secularization of society. All the characters seemed empty. They had material things but something was missing. That something was God. As St. Augustine declared, “Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Today Santa Would Be Convicted of Hate Crimes
Then of course Miracle on 34th portrays the “real” Santa Claus, who is the symbol of Christ in modern day America. He is put on trial and then exonerated because it was politically expedient. Drawing parallels between today and yesteryear, I see this movie’s Santa as the symbol of today’s Christianity. In modern day New York Santa would be found guilty, probably for a number of various hate crimes like preaching love and goodness and family values because today it would be politically expedient for that to happen. How times have changed. However, in the movie, all ends well. Santa is recognized, the sense of the supernatural is once again brought back into the lives of the characters in the movie, a family is created and old rivalries are quenched. Yes, Santa does exist, in the hearts and minds of all the good people out there who let the Spirit of Christmas in. Not the spirit of consumerism, not a fat guy in a red suit but Jesus. The Law of the Give still applies.
Preparing for Christmas
Now is a great time to prepare for Christmas. Yes, I know Thanksgiving has not yet come but I mean spiritually. Do we lock ourselves up in silos? Do we make an effort to speak and interact with people we don’t know at social gatherings or at work or school? Do we plan on making charity a family event? Do we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child by going to confession and turning our hearts and minds to Him more often throughout the day? Do we enjoy every moment we have, right now? Do we thank God? If we are suffering do we unite it to Christ and offer it up for conversions? Do we share what we have? Do we present ourselves joyfully to the world because we are redeemed in Christ who is our all in all? If not maybe, we should. This is my to do list as I get ready for Christmas. What about you?
Et Verbum caro factum est. Come Lord Jesus come!