August 4, 2019 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Andy Upah

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1ECC 1:2; 2:21-23

Responsorial Psalm PS 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 AND 17

  1. (1)If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 COL 3:1-5, 9-11

Alleluia MT 5:3

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:13-21

Homily for Nativity on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

The other night I was out for dinner with Fr. Steve Rosonke, pastor of our neighbor parish over at St. Anthony’s, and it’s my understanding that he typically tells a joke at Mass, especially at the school Masses.  I on the other hand very rarely tell jokes in my homilies, but he told me one the other night that I think works perfectly with today’s readings, so I’ll make an exception and tell it today. 

“What is the difference between a man who has 18 children, and a man who has 18 million dollars? … The man with 18 children knows he has enough.”  

Isn’t that the truth?  When our goals are to acquire earthly things, money or possessions, is there ever enough?  We could always make more money, own a bigger house, buy a fancier car, go on a better vacation, have a nicer meal… there is always more available in the world, but the question becomes, “do we have enough?” 

These readings are challenging, no doubt, challenging to all of us, but it is an important message to take to heart.  

God doesn’t care about our stuff, in a way He doesn’t care about how much money we have or how many nice things we have, but he does care about how we treat others, how we love one another, and how we love him. 

If our money or our stuff gets in the way of any of our actions, how we love or treat one another, how much we pray and worship God, then it’s problematic. 

In the Gospel, the brother who yelled out was due one third of the inheritance, while the older brother was due two thirds, that was the way it worked back then, so this brother just wanted it to be even halves, but Jesus tells the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” 

And in the parable of the rich farmer with the barns, he gives an illustration of this greed and this poor choice. It’s interesting, in the parable Jesus points out the “land produced a bountiful harvest.” It really had nothing to do with the rich man, just like the brother who wanted more of the inheritance he didn’t earn, these were unearned gifts. 

Anyway, he had all of these extra crops.  He already had barns big enough for what he needed to live year to year, but this farmer was selfish so he thought he would store up his treasure to live off for many years.  

Why didn’t the farmer give from his surplus to feed the poor, and trust that the land would continue to provide what he needed year after year?  Didn’t he know he had enough?  This man was greedy and selfish. 

But that night his life would be demanded of him, and everything that he had would be given to someone else.  Vanity of vanities, he had toiled his whole life and he couldn’t take any of it with him, he “labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave property.” 

There are two issues here, one, very practically is that the heirs tend to fight over  inheritance and that causes a great division in the family.  I hear of this happening all of the time, even in Dubuque.  Parents leave differing amounts to children and it causes great anxiety as it tears their family apart, but the heirs really have done nothing to deserve anything, so why fight? Everything is a gift from God.   

But the second issue, maybe the more important issue, is what Quoheleth says at the end, and also what Jesus says.  Quoheleth says, leaving hard earned money and possessions to an heir, “is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” 

And likewise Jesus says, “‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” 

We work and work, labor and prepare much treasure, and then we die and someone else gets it all, for what?  

God has given us only so much time, so we could spend that time and energy working to attain material things that we can't take with us, or rather we could give more glory to God by spending more of our valuable resource of time with Him or our children or parents. 

We could spend all of our time working to have enough but we won’t ever get there, and then we will lose it all anyway, so the real question is, “what does matter to God? What treasure should we be building up in heaven?” 

The simple answer is love. Love is the only thing we can take with us. Love of God, love of family, love of neighbor, love of ourselves. 

Paul lays it out for us in the second reading, “Brothers and sisters: ... seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. … When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” 

That is the “loving God” part, so we come to Mass, we pray every day, we take the opportunities we have to learn about God, to think about Him, more than we think about the things of the earth. 

Then Paul says, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another.” 

We must eliminate these sins in order to properly love our neighbors and ourselves.  We are made for so much more than what this world can offer us, yet oftentimes we are content to settle for these earthly things. 

This week, I’d like us to consider what it is that consumes our mind, what are we worried about, what are we spending our money on, what jealousies do we feel?

 These things are likely to cause anxiety, to keep us awake at night, but we must consider whether we really need them or if we have enough already.  Then we must consider how we are loving and if we can do a better job in that, growing in love. 

Like Paul said today, growing in love as a disciple of Jesus means “taking off the old self with its practices and putting on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” 

One of those ways we become like the image of our creator is to receive God into our bodies, to receive Jesus in the Eucharist in order to renew us.  I pray that we will all be given the wisdom to understand what is really important to God and how we can detach from the rest, sooner rather than later.

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