When is a time when you lost something really valuable to you?
Shopping one Saturday at an outlet mall near my house, I found the best shirt ever at the Guess store. I realize that sounds like an exaggeration, but it was almost as if that shirt picked me. While I usually shopped for black, cream, and brown, colors that would allow me to blend in and insure that no one took much notice of me, the bright lime green, electric blue, and deep violet stripes of this shirt reminded me of a more vibrant version of Monet’s water lilies. Plus in between the colorful stripes were thin strips of sheer material, just daring enough to be fun but not trashy enough for my mom to bar me from leaving the house in it. And at 75% off of the retail price? This was baby-sitting money well spent.
For the following month, I wore that shirt everywhere: to a school dance, out for a movie and pizza with my girlfriends, even just running errands with my mom (although usually with a sweater over it, just in case). For once, I felt fashionable. For once, I sort of wanted people to take notice of me. I do not know if I looked any different from the outside when I wore that shirt, but on the insider I felt confident and happy with myself.
One evening a few weeks later, I was sitting at the desk in my room when my mom came in with my favorite shirt. It was in tatters. It had accidentally been put through the dryer with the rest of the wash, and all the sheer strips had been shredded. I was heartbroken, so sad, in fact, that I called the outlet store to see if they had anymore (they did not) and even searched for it online, to no avail. First, I was angry with myself for not taking better care of my perfect shirt. Then I was sad to go back to wearing the uninspiring earth tones, and finally, I was just resigned to the fact that I would never again find another shirt that made me feel so good.
This week’s Gospel reading from Mark (Mark 13:24-32) is an apocalyptic reading, that is, a revelation about the end of the world and how good will prevail over all evil. In it we are told that in these ends times, “the heavens and the earth will pass away.” In other words, everything as we know it will be gone. Anything that we have held on to in this world will cease to exist. But there is one thing that will not pass away: the words of Jesus Christ.
Apocalyptic writing, like this passage from Mark and the book of Revelation, can be scary; that is probably part of why apocalyptic writing is so popular with people. But this kind of writing can also teach us something important in the here and now and give us hope for the future. If only the words of Jesus will not pass away in the end times, what does that tell us about what is most valuable in our lives? What does that tell us about how we should relate to the things of this world?
All the things of this world will pass away, which means they are not ultimately important. When we make the things of this world too important, when we value them beyond their measure, we treat the things of this world as idols. We put the things of this world in the place of God. Certainly, human beings do this with their material possessions, as I did with my favorite shirt, placing too much value on something that in the end will pass away and not bring us fulfillment in life. Clinging too tightly to the things of this world only brings disappointment.
Conversely, clinging tightly to the Word of God, to Jesus Christ, is what will ultimately bring us happiness, peace, and fulfillment in life. Clinging to God and to Christ and to the Holy Spirit is what makes us most ourselves (not wearing a super cool shirt from the Guess outlet!). And what is so amazing is that unlike everything else in our experience, God will not pass away. The love of God for us will stand forever. In that love, we can put our trust and our hope.
When you think about your life, to what things of this world do you cling tightly? Why does clinging to the things of this world feel good for a time? When has clinging to the things of this world brought disappointment?
How can you cling to God in your life? What hope does it give you to know that the love of God will never pass away?
Photo courtesy of _Faraz via Creative Commons License