Today I was privileged to give the homily at the 8:00 and 10:00 Mass at Holy Ghost. I decided to audio record it and am offering both the recording and the written text. The audio recording also contains my reading of today’s Gospel from Luke 12:13-21.
Click the PLAY button to listen:
JULY 31 – EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE C
Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23 / Col 3:1-5, 9-11 / Lk 12:13-21
Several years ago my wife, Christine, and I left the corporate world to start our own business. This business was one that required a great deal of travel. So much so that we had to live in a motorhome so we could easily travel about the country from job to job.
In order to purchase this business and the motorhome we had to sell our home and all of its furnishings. We had to downsize from owning a large collection of things that filled a 3,000 square foot home to just those things that would fit in a 38’ motorhome. We sold everything at garage sale prices.
Then, something we never expected happened. After selling nearly everything we owned we felt liberated and at complete peace. We began to realize that this peace came from our discovery that happiness is not found in having a bunch of stuff, but from placing our complete trust in God’s providence and by doing our best each day to follow his plan for our life.
Jesus’ is teaching us the lesson in today’s gospel that “one’s life does not consist of possessions.” We had a whole new perspective on life as we began to be able to enjoy the things of this world without clinging to them, without expecting to be fulfilled by them.
Jesus tells us a story in today’s Gospel about a rich man – he calls him a fool – who had an abundance of the world’s goods. He had much more than he needed to live a comfortable life. So great was his success that he had to build new barns to hold his abundant harvest.
Now Jesus is certainly not opposed to us being resourceful with our assets; in other passages in the scriptures he praises resourcefulness. But he is telling us to use our resourcefulness to seek first the kingdom of God and to do HIS work.
For example, the rich man in today’s Gospel could have easily relieved some of the suffering of his laborers by sharing his excess with them. He didn’t seem to understand that his greed, his selfishness, was an offense to God. He didn’t realize that EVERYTHING that he had, regardless of how hard he may have worked for it, was a gift from God to be shared, not hoarded.
He certainly didn’t know that today would be his last day on this earth. If he had known, I wonder if he might have done things differently? Would we do things differently today if we knew today was our last day?
A lesson we can take from this parable is that it does us no good to pile up riches for ourselves if we are not rich in what matters to God. Regardless of our wealth, or lack of wealth, we must be generous, not greedy.
You see, if we’re rich or materially comfortable, then we may give little thought to God and what he wants us to do for HIM today. Our pursuit of the “good life” may cause us to become blind to what really matters: doing the will of God each and every day. This is why Jesus tells us that it can be so difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
And if we’re struggling to make ends meet, as so many of us are, we may be tempted to envy the material possessions of others and spend all of our energy trying to get these things for ourselves. We may be maxing out our credit cards rather than storing up treasure in heaven.
Regardless of our state in life, we are all tempted to pursue things that are simply out of our reach and can never bring us happiness. We may say to ourselves, if only I had that new car, that boat, or that bigger house, THEN, THEN I would be happy.
As we hear in the first reading, trying to find happiness in the pursuit of material things is vanity of vanities. This is because nothing in THIS world lasts. No THING can provide lasting fulfillment. All THINGS are vanity. They are passing and incapable of providing true happiness and joy.
Only in doing what matters to God can we find this joy. Only in being open to doing his will can we find fulfillment and lasting joy. Paul tells us this clearly in today’s second reading. We must first seek what is above so that when Christ appears we will appear with him in glory.
So what DOES matter to God? What should we seek for our treasure if not earthly things? What should we do? Here’s the answer.
We must be rich in MERCY and GENEROSITY.
Rather than being greedy, we are all called to be GENEROUS, to pour ourselves out – to empty ourselves – for the sake of others.
So how do we do this? Well, Mother Church, in her great wisdom, tells us how. She offers us the CORPORAL and SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY as the way to store up treasure in heaven.
And while we may not be able to visit the sick or the imprisoned every day, here are two works of mercy we CAN all do every day: PRAY for the living and the dead and FORGIVE those who trespass against us.
Regardless of our busy schedules, or life’s circumstances, we can ALL do these two works of mercy each and every day. PRAY and FORGIVE.
Going back to my opening story, by no means am I suggesting that you need to sell all of your stuff in order to more fully experience God’s presence in your life. But I am saying that there is no greater joy than to form an attitude of detachment from our earthly possessions, so that we can focus more on doing God’s will each and every day. THIS is the first step in developing our prayer life so we can be sure to hear his voice and harden not our hearts.
At Holy Communion today may our prayer be that God would increase within us a spirit of GENEROSITY and the DESIRE to give ourselves over more completely to doing HIS will. Pray that he will inspire us to be good and faithful servants who seek to accumulate treasure in heaven by sharing our gifts, our prayers, our forgiveness, and our resources with those in need.
God bless you.