Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on August 6, 2016 at 6:00PM and August 7, 2016 at 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
I don’t often play the lottery, but when I do I play the same numbers. Recently reading the newspaper, there I saw all of my numbers listed in the lottery results section of the paper. I had matched every single number perfectly without missing one! I hit the lottery! Unfortunately you will notice that I said “hit” the lottery and not “win” the lottery because unfortunately the drawing was for the California Super Lotto, which I have never played, and will probably never play in my life. With the odds of winning the lottery so high my numbers will not repeat again for another 25,000 years!
Of course we can all be millionaires without playing the lottery by simply saving a little money each week. In fact if you invest as little as $44 dollars a week, which is not too much money, I’m sure we could all find room in our budgets to find $44 (in fact I know several people who spend more than that on the lottery each week), but if you invest $44 each week in the stock market, and you receive simply an average rate of return, you will be a millionaire in fifty years. But who wants to wait fifty years? We want to be millionaires now! So we pray to God, bargain with God, and spend money on lottery tickets for a very slim chance that we might be a millionaire today. Fifty years is much too long to wait.
This same mentality affects our spiritual life I think. Fifty years seems like a long time, while eternity seems much further off in the distance. We rarely, if ever, think about eternity. We certainly care about heaven and what will happen to us in the afterlife, but we are so busy with what’s happening in our lives: family, school, career, exercise, sports, the Pirates problems, Steelers training camp, now the Olympics, Pokémon Go, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all this stuff, and we think we have plenty of time yet to get right with God, to work on our relationship with our Lord, and to prepare ourselves for heaven later. But in today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that we cannot wait because we don’t know the hour. We have to be prepared and ready to open the door when our master comes and knocks.
Recently I was driving home from work and I witnessed a terrible accident on Route 8. A car pulled out right into the path of a motorcycle. The rider had no chance to slow down or swerve to avoid a collision and I watched in horror as pieces of the motorcycle scattered over the road and the rider flipped over the car and flew through the air like a rag doll before landing hard at the side of the road. I stopped expecting the worst because nobody could ever survive a collision like that, but God was with the young man that day. Josh, a husband and father of two young children, despite very serious injuries and seemingly impossible odds survived. It will be awhile until Josh can walk again, but by the grace and hand of God he lives today. I ask you to please keep him and his family in prayer.
As I drove home that evening I could not stop thinking what Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel. We know not the hour. I hope and pray that it will be fifty years from now so that I can save my $44 a week and become a millionaire, but based on my age it will probably happen sooner than that, and it might even happen today. After all I could be involved in a fatal car accident. We have a 1 in 600 chance of that happening in our lifetime. Violence is up in this country, so we are now more likely to die from a gun than a car, a 1 in 350 chance. We have a 1 in 6,000 chance of drowning, 1 in 100,000 chance of it happening during a flood, 1 in 200,000 chance of being killed by lightning, and surprisingly, despite all the worry about terror attacks, the odds of a terrorist ending our life is the extremely low 1 in 9 million, although it is 33 times more likely to happen than winning the Powerball. Why is God keeping us from winning the lottery? The answer may be because he is so busy keeping us from winning these other not so pleasant lotteries.
But the important point today is that we don’t know the hour. No matter how much we exercise, eat right, and ignore the issue of eternity and our mortality, each of us will all reach the hour when we will meet our Lord. It’s a 100% chance, an absolute guarantee. Yet we are better prepared to win the Powerball. I bet we’ve all thought more about what we would do if we won the Powerball and what we would say at the press conference than what we are going to say to the Lord when we meet him.
One thing I may ask him is, “Why didn’t you let me win the Powerball?”, but in reality God already has. About nine months before we were born 300 million pieces of DNA started a race – the finish line, another piece of DNA – and only one piece of DNA would win that race . The winning DNA and the other DNA combined into a unique and never to be duplicated combination that grew into us, and only that combination would become us. There was only a 1 in 300 million chance we win that race and yet by the grace of God alone we did. Thanks be to God! If we ever think that we are not important or any other person is not important we need to think about the 1 in 300 million chance. The same odds as winning the Powerball! And yet the God who looked out for us then and still looks out for us each and every day is probably not the most important part of our lives.
In today’s second reading we hear about the promise God made to Abraham and Sarah, to overcome great odds and have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky despite their old age and barrenness. God has worked similar wonders in our own families. If you think about it every single one of our direct ancestors had children in an unbroken line that has continued for thousands of years, otherwise we would never have been born. This despite the fact that for much of human history because of wars, plagues, droughts, and famines, each generation had a less than 50 percent chance of reaching adulthood, let alone having children and successfully raising them to adulthood that they could have their own children.
A scientist calculated the odds that all of our ancestors would successfully reproduce for the entire length of human history so that we could be alive today and it is about 1 in 103,000,00, that is 1 followed by 3,000,000 zeroes, enough zeroes to fill every space in a book the size of the Book of the Gospels. There were astronomical odds against us being here today, and yet God guided an almost endless list of events from the beginning of time that we could be here today. If we ever think that God doesn’t think we are important we should think about that.
And yet there is still more for us. We can win the biggest lottery in history. Jesus says, “Your father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms . Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven [is yours]!” Each hour of each day we can be making small deposits that when compounded for all eternity become an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, a reward made possible by what our Lord did for us on the cross. All we have to do is play and we win. What numbers we pick do not matter. It all comes down to one what is important to us. What do we treasure? “For where you treasure is, there also will your heart be,” Jesus says.
We know not the hour, but if we live our lives like the hour we meet our Lord is the most important hour of our lives, the inexhaustible treasure in heaven is ours for eternity. It’s a 100% chance, a guarantee.
Rejoice and be glad!