Gospel and Homily Notes by Archbishop Joseph Harris, C.S. Sp
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21A man in the crowd said to Jesus, “Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.”
“My friend,” he replied, “who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?”
Then he said to them, “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more then he needs.”
Then he told them a parable: “There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from the land, thought to himself, ‘What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?’ So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.”
I remember when I was a young child, my mother chiding us at table because we quarreled over food. She often said to us that we were making a fuss to have more food when we really did not need that extra piece that we were quarreling over.
The Gospel that the church gives us this weekend for our meditation reminds us of the penchant that all of us have for hoarding things that we do not really need.
The Gospel story begins with a man asking Jesus to tell his brother to give him a share of the inheritance. Jesus refuses telling the man that his worth is not because of what he owns, especially when he has more than is necessary. He than tells them a parable to explain that lesson which he wanted to give them. After all his crops and thinking only of his material possessions, the rich man is told that God will call him that very night and that all the material possessions will be left behind. And because he has never bothered with doing the things that make us rich before God, he appears before God with no credit to his name.
The problem is not with the amount of goods that he has, the problem is what he has done or has not done with the riches that he has. What is not allowed is that a person simply hoards, while others go in need.
The Saints, our heroes in the faith, were acutely aware of this teaching, and so many of them who were materially wealthy used their wealth to bring happiness to those around them who were in need.
The teaching of the Christian ethic is, not that wealth is a sin, but that it is a very great responsibility. If a man’s wealth ministers to nothing but his own pride and enriches no one but himself, it becomes his ruination, because it impoverishes his soul. But if he uses it to bring help and comfort to others, in becoming poorer, he really becomes richer. In time and eternity “it is more blessed to give than to receive.
If this teaching applies to us as individuals it also applies to us as a nation. So often I fear that our quest for developed nation status is simply to make us a great nation in the style of the USA. Pope Paul 6th warns, “The continued greed of the wealthy nations will certainly call down on them the wrath of the poor, with consequences no one can foretell.”
The greatness of a nation is not in how rich it becomes, but in how it uses its wealth to ensure that its citizens are all taken care off. With the gap between rich and poor growing each day, I wonder what the future will really bring.
The Gospel then, calls us to thank God for the example of those who have made becoming rich in God’s sight the priority of their lives, and so were not hoarders but used their material possessions to help others. We see this so often even among the poor in our villages who share everything they have. There is no hoarding for them.
Let us thank God for the times that we have used our material possessions to help others.
All of us know however, how easily avarice can creep into our lives, and how often we find all sorts of excuses not to help others. Let us ask God to help us to create treasure for ourselves in heaven by using our material possessions to help those around us who may be in need.
All powerful and ever loving God, You call us to be people who take care of and share the wealth of this world so that all can live truly human lives. When however we put wealth and possessions in your place, when we make them our God, we think only of accumulating more and more. Help us to be people who listen to your voice and so seek to love as your Son Jesus did, thinking of others and trying to do the best that we can for them. We ask this through the intercession of the same Jesus, your Son and Mary, our mother. Amen