Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23, Ps. 90:3-6,12-14,17, Colossians 3:1-5,9-11, Luke 12:13-21
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:19-20)
Last Sunday, we saw how God was willing to negotiate with Abraham for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, we saw also the need for persistence in prayer with the story given by Jesus of a man who went to his friend at night demanding some loaves of bread. Today, surprisingly, a young man prayed to Jesus imploring Him to come and settle a property dispute with his brother but Jesus who had said whatever we ask we shall receive, responded by saying: “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” (Luke 12:14). What is Jesus teaching us today?
1. Beware of all Covetousness.
Reading through our Gospel passage, it is easy for us to wrongly assume that Jesus was condemning riches but in truth, Jesus was condemning i. The worship of riches, ii. The feeling that our life is secure, based on the abundance of our possessions, iii. Our willingness to do anything just for the sake of riches (covetousness on the part of the brother who refused to release the father’s inheritance), iv. Selfishness; thinking only of ourselves and v. Wastefulness; storing up riches instead of helping to better the lives of others who are in need. To be rich is not a sin but to worship riches and to fail to use riches properly is a mortal sin. Jesus does not condemn the rich, rather he condemns covetousness; greediness, avarice, and inordinate desire for another person’s possessions.
2. Take Care of Your Soul; Be Rich towards God.
The rich man in the parable said: “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.” The man did not realize that the survival of his soul does not depend on earthly riches. The reason this man is called a fool is that he acted as if there is no God. Remember the Psalmist says: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). He was wise enough to know how to plant but was foolish by his failure to be rich towards God. What does it mean to be rich towards God? “Let him:’ says St. Bede, “he who wishes to be rich in God, should not lay up treasure to himself, but distribute his possessions among the poor.”
My brothers and sisters, have you written your will? If God were to demand your soul this very night, would He call you a fool or a wise person? According to St. Ambrose “The things that we cannot carry with us are not our own. Virtue alone is the companion of the dead. Mercy alone follows us—and mercy alone gains abodes for the departed.”
3. Wealth and Vanity Are Not The Same Thing.
The word ‘vanity’ is the English translation of the Hebrew word ‘hebel’ which means ‘breath’ or ‘air’. In our first reading, the preacher’s aim is to draw our attention to the futility (emptiness, senselessness, mere breath) of toiling and working so hard for wealth which neither brings us satisfaction nor lasts forever. It is a mere breath to work so hard only for others who didn’t know how you got it to enjoy. It is a mere breath to spend your health to make money because no amount of money can buy back your health.
Our first reading is not fatalistic. It only warns us of the danger of making the pursuit of wealth our highest priority in life. There is a way to be wealthy that would not amount to vanity. This is when we are committed to training our children, instead of simply transferring wealth to them. Spend more time with your children, be involved in their lives, don’t leave them at the mercy of house-helps, and don’t assume the eight or nine hours they spend in school is enough to give them a sound moral upbringing.
4. Some Prayers are not Worth Answering.
If you read Luke chapter 12 beginning from verse one down to where our Gospel passage today begins you would immediately realize that this man interrupted Jesus. He was not even listening to what Jesus was saying. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7). Sadly, many of us are in the same shoes as this man. We come to church not because we desire to improve our spiritual life, but because we want our share of earthly properties.
According to Saint Augustine, this man “begged half an inheritance on earth; the Lord offered him a whole one in heaven; he gave him more than he asked for.” Some prayers are not answered not because God is incapable of answering but because we ask wrongly. As James puts it: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:2-4).
5. Set Your Minds on Things Above.
You would agree with me that the reason why many are engrossed with these sinful behaviors is money. Don’t fall into this trap, don’t be like the seed “sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19). Stop aiming to be the richest man on earth, satan will so entice you that you end up losing your religion. Aim rather for Sainthood. St. Paul tells us in our second reading to set our minds on things that are above by putting to death immorality, impurity, evil desires, covetousness and especially telling of lies.
In conclusion, Don’t Be a Fool.
Money is useless without your soul. Do you feel blessed with some money? Has your business prospered? Then “give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14). Do you have any extra money and you are thinking of what investment to do? Are you thinking of building a new barn? “You have it in the bellies of the poor,” says St. Basil and St. Ambrose.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, draw near to us, answer our prayers with your unceasing kindness, restore in us what you have created and keep safe in us what you have restored. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23, Ps. 90:3-6,12-14,17, Colossians 3:1-5,9-11, Luke 12:13-21).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu