I guess we didn’t win the big lottery!

I bought a few tickets in the recent big lottery. Before the numbers were pulled, visions of sugarplums danced through my head.

I have to confess that I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t win — me and millions of other Americans. I kept thinking about how I’d use the money and about how I would intuitively know how to use it well.

I had a vision of paying for a brand-new parish center, installing sparkling new windows in the school. I saw myself in countless photos in the media, doling out big checks to needy organizations in the Church and in the community.

Oh, well; even a priest has visions of grandeur and flights of fancy.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t win the lottery. Even at my age, winning would have tested my character. Winning would have distracted me from my journey of faith. Winning might have even suggested that there were better things out there for me to do than to be a priest and a pastor. (I can’t really think of any, by the way).

What to do with all that money would have taken up a lot of my time and energy. Who knows where I would have ended up: probably in the land of self-importance or a land of one excess or another. I might even have believed I was now invulnerable and invincible!

I think a great many of us, down deep, occasionally believe that money will solve most of our problems. That’s what the culture tells us. That’s what we take away from the stories about the Rockefellers, the Gettys and royalty.

I hear that message every day on TV and in today’s discourses on politics and even religion. (“If we had a billion dollars, we could keep all our churches open, pay all our bills, expand, open our closed churches and build new schools. Then we’d be successful!”)

Money has its place. It enables us to take care of ourselves and our families. It provides us with shelter, clothes, computers and a good education. It gives us opportunities for recreation and for a type of worldly security.

However, it’s seductive. It can overtake our lives and get us to ignore deeper realities about this life and the next. Thinking about getting money can sometimes lead to obsession for more and more money.

In the end, obsession for money makes us forget that we are creatures: that we’re mortal and fragile, that we come from the loving impulse of the only self-sufficient being in the universe, almighty God. Money can propel onto the road of our own deification, of total self-reliance on ourselves and the things of this world.

One of the dangers that money poses for Christians is that it makes believers forget they are involved in a profound interior struggle which no one can see: the struggle in one’s heart, a struggle for transformation that must be taken up every day.

This is the struggle to make time and room for God, the struggle to pray, the struggle to avoid sin and master sinful impulses, the struggle to seek virtue, to make time for and care for others and to love in thought, word and deed.

This is the struggle to fulfill our duties and our vocations well, to support and be present to the people whom God has placed in our lives right here and now. This is the inner road that all Christians must undertake, and money can seduce us into abandoning it.

It’s the struggle of the interior life, the moral life, the life of ongoing conversion to Christ. This is the task that most needs our time, energy and greatest attention.

In the long run, I’m glad I didn’t win the lottery. I’m glad I haven’t been distracted by this billion-dollar pot of gold. I guess I’ve got to get up tomorrow and continue my own struggle to be more giving, to be more honest and pure, to fulfill my duties well and to strive to be a good priest and pastor.

My losing the lottery makes me remember again that real riches don’t depend on winning a billion dollars and an escape plan. Real riches have to do with knowing Christ, following Him and doing what He wants me to do every day. Thankfully, it also involves sleeping well at night, knowing that God is with me and getting a place ready for me later, in the security of His home.

I guess I’ll have to raise the money the old-fashioned way: with lots of prayer, collaboration and hard work — and no escape plan.

(Father Morrette is pastor of St. Mary’s parish in Glens Falls.)