Monday, August 5, 2019

Not in vain: God is My Treasure and My Salvation

18th Sunday of the Year: Readings - Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-5.9-11; Luke 12:13-21
(Photo - OV)
The readings of today are really challenging. They raise unusual questions; questions about God, about our life, and what we make out of our lives. They also suggest that what we ARE is of far greater importance than what we HAVE. In other words, the message of today is to “being more and not have more”. Our attitude to material things is the subject of today’s readings. It is about the things that we really regard important in our lives. 

Human experience raises deep questions. Of course God exists, and we must serve him – but it is hard to see his justice at work in all that happens. Wicked people sometimes do well; good people can be oppressed, wise people are often unrecognised. Therefore our first reading declares: ‘All is vanity!’ Not ‘vanity’ in the sense of pride in one’s appearance

Jesus calls the rich man a “fool”—a word used in the Old Testament for someone who rebels against God or has forgotten Him. 

Psalm 14:1 speaks, 
'The fool[a] says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.'

We should treasure most the new life we have been given in Christ and seek what is above, the promised inheritance of heaven.  We have no control on our lives. What matters most is not what we possess or achieve but what we do with our life. We have to see all things in the light of eternity, mindful that He who gives us the breath of life could at any moment—this night even—demand it back from us as the parable tells us in the Gospel reading. 

It involves being ever more “renewed in the image of the creator”, of whom Jesus is the perfect model. To grow more and more like Jesus is to grow more and more into the image of God, by whom and for whom we were created.

Even though, the conversation between Jesus and the young man took place 2000 years ago, but it speaks to today’s consumerist culture. The more we have, the more we need the next best thing. Like the rich man in Jesus’ story, it’s easy to get caught up in this cycle looking for best things and next things! 

Actually, Jesus does not condemn the rich man and his possessions. But the way, the young man looks at his wealth as if it is his own making. He believes that he has all the right over it. He does not understand that all the treasure that he has, has been given from above. His egoistic tendency and avarice closes his eyes to see the reality outside. He does not see others in this whole picture. He is drowned in the wealth and in himself. Enjoyment and merrymaking become central factors of his life. He becomes the centre and the rich harvest becomes his “lord of lords”.

It is worth observing, however, that no other people are mentioned in the story. He himself was the absolute centre of everything – nothing else mattered, no one else mattered. The world and all its goods were there purely and simply for him to take hold of and keep for himself. Wealth brings loneliness and away from good and holy people around. 

Possessions can give us the illusion of security, control and self-reliance. This leads to isolation. There is no other person in the rich man’s story; he looks only to himself. He has lost sight of the needs of those around him and his own dependence on God.  

Wealth, it is believed, is a sign of “success” though it is not quite clear where the “success” really lies. It also brings “respect” and “status”. 

St. Basil of Caesarea, a fourth-century doctor of the Church, as well as his namesake St. Francis of Assisi have said, “Money is the devil’s dung!”

Quite honestly, for many of us Christians these priorities often take precedence over our following of Christ. 

Today’s readings ask us to consider another approach altogether. It is important to emphasise that Jesus is not saying, “You must give up all these things and lead a life of bleak misery for my sake.” On the contrary, Jesus is offering a much more secure way to happiness and a life of real enjoyment. Against the greed that obsesses many people Jesus offers an opposite alternative to security and happiness – sharing.

How many can identify with the rich man in the parable that Jesus tells today? 

Our security comes from being part of a loving and caring community taking care of each member’s needs. 

Here is where that security that people long for lies. Real security is not in the future. Genuine security is in the here and now. And it is this security that is the real wealth we dream of. Material plenty by itself does not guarantee it.

Mainly three things we could draw as lessons for our life from today's readings.

1. It is better to be being more than having more
2. Let our focus be God our creator. He has created us in his own image and likeness
3. Our salvation begins here and now. So let’s start this journey with right earnest, thus focussing our energies and capacities in building up our treasures in heaven.

What endures and ensures is His divine love and all the affairs of this life may pass away. So beautifully Psalm 146:3–4 cautions us: 

“Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.”

Questions for reflections
  1. In what ways do my possessions cut me off from God and neighbour?  
  2. Have I lost perspective of what truly matters?  
  3. How can I share my abundance with others?  
  4. The love of God guarantees life. Might it be that I am greedy because deep down I am not yet ready to rely upon the love of God? 
  5. Do I really believe that this world is the whole story?
Lord Jesus,  
Open our eyes to what really matters.
Open our lives so that we can share our treasure with those in need.  
Open our hearts so that we can know the true riches of your love and mercy.  

- Olvin Veigas, SJ