They were 10 seniors from a large Catholic university attending a weekend retreat on the spirituality of work and they brought their questions with them. What kind of work would they do after graduation? Where would life take them? Marcie hoped to go into international finance, Greg into banking and Bill into computer programming. But then there was Philip. He had only come on this weekend because the others had talked him into it. He made it quite clear that he wanted nothing to do with organized religion. But it was Philip who spent most of his time writing in his journal, and it was Philip who had shared most deeply when the talk turned to spiritual things. When Philip asked “What must I do?” it was clear that he wasn’t just talking about work.
Philip’s dad was a successful businessman, at least if one judged success by the size of one’s house and the number of figures in one’s salary. But Philip questioned his father’s definition of success. At the ripe old age of 21, Philip had become quite cynical about what society considered successful. His family was Catholic. His parents were heavy contributors to their parish. They did not kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness or defraud. But none of that mattered to Philip. What mattered to Philip was that his parents’ drive to be successful left little time for them to be family. True, they provided the best nursing care available for their aging parents; but they never seemed to have the time to actually visit them. When Philip was in high school, his parents never had the time to go to football games or parents’ weekends. In fact, they had been in Europe when he graduated from high school.
“How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God …” “A man ran up … and asked him… ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” Philip came along on that weekend seeking another kind of treasure. He came asking, “What must I do…?” If he asked us that question, how would we answer him?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.