Why Spend your Money for What is Not Bread

I keep coming back to a line in Isaiah that was proclaimed as the first reading at Mass yesterday.  It is line I’ve heard before, but somehow it struck me in a deeper way when I heard it last evening than when I’ve heard it before.  Isaiah quotes the Lord invitation,

All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!

I’ve sat with these words before, and they always evoke a response of gratitude and awe at God’s loving embrace. But it is the question in the next line that was so striking and has been sitting with me:

Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy?

I sat up as the line was proclaimed. Put that way, of course, it seems so absurd – why would one spend money on that which cannot satisfy? Why waste our wages on things that don’t nourish? Yet we do it all the time, don’t we? To paraphrase the old song, we look for satisfaction in all the wrong places, putting time, effort and money into things that can, at best, bring only temporary satisfaction of our wants and desires. And while we do, there is God – constantly extending His invitation: Come to me. Take what I offer freely. Come to me, says God, “that you may have life.” Sounds like a pretty good deal.

In the words a Dominican friend of mine once used to end a sermon: The deal’s on the table. What are you going to do with it?


Humble Satifaction

Today’s second Mass reading comes from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, a letter written at a time when Paul knows his life is coming to an end.  Looking back, he says, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me.” 

But this is no braggard patting himself on the back for his great achievements, thinking it was all him.  For almost in the same breath he adds, “the Lord stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the proclamation might be completed…And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”  I did well, but I did what I did through the grace and power of God.  Thus, says Paul, to God “be glory forever and ever.”

Good reminder for us.  There is nothing wrong with being pleased or satisfied with what we accomplish, with letting ourselves hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  But at the same time, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we accomplish what we do through the grace of God, through whose power (in the words of the letter from Ephesians) we are able to accomplish far more than we could ask for or imagine, and for the glory of God.