There is a line from scripture that says, Woe to the solitary man. If he falls he has no one to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
Scripture also says, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb 10:24-25). The teaching is clear: we must come together each week for Mass and learn to live in deep communion with one another. We are not meant to make this journey alone. We need encouragement and exhortation, food for the journey, and companionship and protection.
In the days of Jesus it was almost unthinkable for a person to make a lengthy journey alone. Once a person left the relative safety of the town, the journey got dangerous. There were robbers lying in wait along the roads just looking for vulnerable targets. For this reason people almost always made journeys in groups.
This is a good image for the spiritual journey we must all make. Alone we are easy targets. We are vulnerable and without help when spiritual demons attack.
Yet another insight says, Feuding brothers reconcile when there is a maniac at the the door.
Somehow I thought of all this when I saw these two videos. They are clever and make the point of partnership or perish, teamwork or terror, love or lose, hang together or hang separately. Yes, woe to the solitary man! How necessary the protection of the flock. How necessary for the herd to stay together.
At Mass for Wednesday of the 25th Week of the Year, we read this passage:
Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me [only] with food that I need for today: Lest I be full, and deny you, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:9-10).
One of the great problems of our time is satiation. Because of our own inordinate drives, we accumulate and indulge beyond reason. Filled, we have little room for God or others for that matter.
The more affluent we become in material things, the more spiritually poor we seem to become. The higher our standard of living, the lower our overall morals. The more filled our coffers, the emptier our churches. The numbers demonstrate clearly show that over the past 60 years our standard of living has risen while church attendance and other signs of belief and spirituality have plummeted—so has family time and the developing of deep human relationships. Marriage rates have plummeted while divorce has soared. Birthrates are down. Children are considered a burden in a satiated world with a high standard of living. These are the evils of our times.
It isn’t just wealth, either; it’s all the things that distract and divert us. There are so many pleasures available to us, most of them lawful, but often it’s just too much of a good thing.
One might imagine another scenario in which we were astonished by God’s providence and fell to our knees in gratitude; in our riches and possession of so many good things we prayed and went to Mass even more often out of sheer gratefulness. Alas this is seldom the case today.
Our affluence creates the illusion of self-sufficiency and self-fulfillment.
St. Augustine sadly noted, in a time far less satiated than our own, I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, would not be (Confessions 10.27).
Many other Scriptures warn of the spiritual danger posed by wealth and worldly satiation:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs (1 Tim 6:9-10).
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money! (Luke 16:13)
But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep (Luke 6:24-25).
But many that are first will be last, and the last first (Mat 19:30).
How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God … It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mk 10:23-25).
It is amazing that despite all of this most of us still want to be rich and would jump for joy if we won the lottery; instead we should soberly cringe with fear and look for good ways to shed our excess.
Alas, this is the human condition, or at least the fallen version of it. It isn’t very pretty and is proof positive that we are going to need a lot of grace and mercy to get home.
Think of that this as you watch this video. It’s a stark portrait of modern man. Consider how full, yet lonely, the man in the video is. He speaks only of himself and seems to interact with almost no one. He’s lost in a self-referential world of excess, filled with every good thing, but too full for God. Somehow the man knows that the worldly things fill him for only a moment and then pass, but still the answer is more! It’s quite a commentary on too many of us today.
As the Proverb says, he is rich and says, “Who is the Lord?”