by Father Mark Goldasich
A true sign of a pastor is someone who makes sure that, after parish events, all the doors are securely locked, and all the lights are turned off. I resemble that comment.
At first, it was only a concern for safety or economics. Over the years, though, it’s become a matter of morality.
The following story helped widen my perspective:
Once a king had a great highway built for his subjects. After it was completed, but before being officially opened, the king decided to hold a contest. He invited all to participate. Their challenge was to see who could travel the highway the best.
On the day of the contest, scores of people came. Some had fine chariots, some wore lavish clothing, sported elaborate hairdos or packed delicious food. Some young men came in their track clothes and ran along the highway.
People traveled the highway all day, but each one, when arriving at the end, complained to the king about a large pile of rocks and debris left on the road at a particular spot that got in their way and hindered their travel.
At the end of the day, a lone traveler crossed the finish line and slowly walked over to the king. Although tired and dirty, he addressed the king with great respect and handed him a bag of gold.
He explained, “I stopped along the way to clear a pile of rocks and debris that was blocking the road. This bag of gold was under it all. I ask you to return it to its rightful owner.”
The king replied, “You are the rightful owner!”
The traveler said, “Oh no, this is not mine! I’ve never known such money.”
“Oh yes,” answered the king. “You’ve earned this gold, for you won my contest. He who travels the road best is the one who makes the road smoother for those who will follow.” (Source unknown)
With each baptism that I celebrate, I can’t help but wonder what kind of world these children will grow up in. I blame Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’” (On Care for Our Common Home) for making me uncomfortable enough to question my role regarding the world I’m passing on to the next generation.
I find it haunting to ponder the words of Ecumenical Patriarch Barthomew, quoted by the pope in the encyclical: “He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which ‘entails learning to give and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs’” (LS, 9).
With that in mind, I’ve become much more conscious of recycling plastic and paper; not wasting electricity; consolidating errands into fewer car trips; and not throwing away food. I’ve picked up items on the floor of stores and put them back on the shelf so no one will stumble. I’ve grabbed trash blowing around in parking lots and taken grocery carts back to the corral. And I’ve donated boxes and bags of items that were sitting around unused in my home.
My greatest hurdle is limiting my consumption of “stuff” — all the items I buy that I don’t honestly need, but somehow want. I’m working on channeling the money I’d spend on me to supporting charities, especially in developing countries.
As we see kids returning to school, let’s ask ourselves that difficult question: What kind of world am I handing on to them — one that’s beautiful or, as the encyclical warns, simply “an immense pile of filth”?
Blessed are those who make the road smoother for those who follow.