1923 was a long time ago. But we can learn from history if we so choose. In that year, a high level meeting was held in Chicago’s old Edgewater Hotel. Nine of the most powerful people in the United States were there. They included the presidents of the nation’s largest steel company, the nation’s largest gas company and the nation’s largest utility company. Twenty-five years later, where were these powerful tycoons? Three had died penniless, three had committed suicide, two were in prison, and one had gone insane. Their fates illustrate well Jesus’ point when he says in the gospel “Does a person gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his life ?” (Mk 8:36) But their fates also invite us to ask ourselves to what extent we could be in danger of making the same mistake? In
a world like ours where worldly success- which usually is associated with material success- is so highly prized, it is easy to fall into its pursuit while ignoring or neglecting the things that truly bring us meaning and joy. The love of family and friends, the appreciation of the beauty of the world God has given us, the pleasure that comes from reading a good book or listening to some good music, the contemplation and celebration of the wonder of God’s love for us in Christ, all these and more can easily be forgotten or at least underappreciated in the quest to surround ourselves with wealth and power. But if that happens, have we not lost our humanity, our souls? As the old prayer goes, “Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and for what to stand for - because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything”.