Thinking As God Thinks
“You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do.”
Best-selling author Geneen Roth and her husband were among the thousands of investors who lost their life-savings in Bernie Madoff’s $65-billion-Ponzi scheme. As you can imagine, the anger, fear and regret were intense — 30 years of retirement savings thought to be in a “safe” place disappeared in an instant.
In her new book entitled Lost and Found, Geneen recounts her family’s story and those of friends who were ruined in the Madoff fraud. She writes that the experience led her to a whole new way of thinking about the “irrational, destructive ways” we use money and evaluate wealth. In losing everything, the Roths and their friends “also lost their attachment to what they thought they needed to be happy.“
Roth writes, “Before my husband and I lost our money, I’d been complaining about our house. Built as a vacation home in the 1960s, it’s drafty and the plumbing doesn’t always work. But after Madoff confessed, I couldn’t believe my good fortune to have a house, for that day and every day after.”
“Before Madoff confessed, I didn’t like the way [my husband] Matt chewed his cereal, wore ankle socks, and was insistent on focusing on the positive. But after Madoff confessed, it seemed miraculous that I’d ended up married for more than 20 years to a man I adored. I remembered again how much I liked his face, his laugh, his walk, and the way he rolled his eyes.”
“Before Madoff confessed, I’d peer at my body from the holes in my psyche. But after Madoff, I was grateful to have a body, hair, eyes and legs that functioned …”
“From the perspective of losing everything, having anything seemed like winning the lottery.”
In today’s gospel by St. Matthew, we hear Jesus foretell His passion and resurrection. This is the first occasion when Jesus tells His disciples about the sufferings and death He must undergo. He does it twice more, later on. The Apostles are surprised, because they cannot and do not want to understand why the Master should have to suffer and die, much less that He should be so treated “by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes.” But Peter, with his usual spontaneity, immediately begins to protest. And Jesus replies to him using the same words as He addressed to the devil when he tempted Him; Jesus wants to affirm, once again, that His mission is spiritual, not earthly, and that therefore it cannot be understood by using mere human criteria : it’s governed by God’s designs, which were that Jesus should redeem us through the shedding of His Precious Blood, His Suffering and His Death. So too, for a Christian, suffering, united with Christ, is also a means of salvation.
Jesus rejects St. Peter’s well-intentioned protestations – leading us to understand the capital importance of accepting the cross if we are to attain salvation. Shortly before this Jesus had promised St. Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon“; now Jesus reproves him: “Get behind me, Satan.” In the former case St. Peter’s words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, whereas what he says now – just moments later, comes from his own spiritual pride which he has not yet overcome.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, throughout the Gospel, Jesus challenges our often-illusory, distorted relationships with such things as money, food, technology, sports — which are diversions and pursuits that eat up our time and energy at the expense of the important relationships we have with our family and our friends — and especially with God. Jesus asks His disciples to detach from temporary and shallow things of earth in order to attach to the lasting, fulfilling things of God; prayer, sacrifice, compassion, mercy, peace and justice.
If we are true to Jesus’ call to discipleship, we must see this earthly life of ours through the lens of the supernatural and understand all things against the backdrop of eternity. Only then will we find ourselves embracing values that run counter to what society honors; such as taking the first lonely and difficult steps toward reconciliation and peace, and putting aside our own needs and wants for what is best for family and community. As disciples, we choose to take up the cross, not out of a sense of self-loathing or pessimism, but out of a sense of conviction and hope that the demands of the cross will result ultimately in our happiness of eternal life.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!