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Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too!” As a kid, I never understood that bit of wisdom. I was always like, “Isn’t ‘having’ cake, just eating cake?” When I got a little older I heard people say, “Well, isn’t that just too pretty to eat.” I didn’t understand that either. No food is so pretty that I don’t want to eat it. It’s food. I guess I’m weird that way.
What both of those sentiments is getting at is that sometimes in life we can’t have things both ways. We can’t hold on to and admire a well-decorated cake and cut it too. It’s like when the Cake Boss yells, “Let’s eat some cake!” and then cuts into this momentous creation that he spent 150 hours decorating. At some point you have to decide if the thing is visual art or particularly beautiful food.
I heard a priest once preach that before about 100 years ago the plural form of the word, “priority,” rarely, if ever appeared in print. The reason being that the very definition of the word priority is “one thing before all else.” A priority refers to the thing that we but before everything else in our lives. In this way, saying that we have priorities doesn’t actually make much sense.
In our gospel today Jesus reminds the man in the story, and all of us, that if we want to be happy and holy and healthy we can have just one priority – an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. No rules will save us. No amount of money can redeem us. Nothing other than following Jesus Christ should be our #1.
Our current culture says that we can have multiple priorities – many first things. We are told we can be young and rich and beautiful and old and have a family and uber educated and powerful and good and selfish and relaxed and stressed and 1000 other things. We can have our cake and eat it and everything else too. The gospel reminds we that every day we make a decision what our #1 priority is. The rich young man goes away sad because he decided his wealth was his priority.
The thing is, every day we choose, whether we do it on purpose or not, what our priority is going to be. Wherever we spend our life, whatever gets our attention and focus, and what we spend our money on demonstrates what our priority is. This is hard to think about because it shows that most of us either have chosen poorly our priority or aren’t very good at living our what we wish our priority was. Even the disciples are discouraged by Jesus’ teaching priorities and heaven and then spend all their time following Jesus around.
The good news comes at the end of the reading. Jesus reminds us that though we will have to give up everything else in our life in order to make Jesus Christ our priority, the reward is no less than 100 times our investment. No matter what we sacrifice to follow Jesus, it will be worth it. God is never outdone in his generosity and will multiply any gift we give him.
Take a peak at your bank statement. Based on where you spent your money, what is your priority? What is important to you and your family? Do you intentionally live with a priority in mind? Explain.