18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 31st 2016.
Eccl 1:2, 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5,9-11; Lk 12:13-21
Striving to be rich like Jesus
The Psalmist prays emphatically, “May the gracious care of the Lord our God be upon us; prosper the works of our hands for us! Prosper the works of our hands!”
These words remind us that there is nothing wrong with striving for more of the things of this life so as to improve our present conditions or to provide for a better future. It is necessary to strive for these things. Besides, our efforts to better provide these basic needs and to save for the future can be sanctifying too.
However, foolishness slowly creeps into the picture when we are so preoccupied with striving to get more that we forget our vocation to strive more to use all that we have to foster our relationship with God and with others. We become foolish when we do not strive to use all things that we have for the greater glory of God, to fulfill His will in the concrete realities of our state of life, and to better meet the spiritual and physical needs of others.
This is the foolishness of the rich man in today’s Gospel passage. Having received an abundant harvest, he does not reflect on how he is to respond with greater generosity to God’s goodness to Him by fulfilling God’s will or who he may better help with his blessings. He shows no deeper humility, contrition, gratitude towards God or generosity towards others. He has no need to strive to please God more or to better provide for the needs of others. In short, he is so fixated on striving for more that he has dispensed himself from striving to fulfil his responsibility towards God and neighbors, “Now, as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” He justly deserves the condemnation, “You fool!”
Jesus warns us that we too are rich fools when we “store up treasures for ourselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” To be “rich in what matters to God” is to become like Jesus Christ, who “though he was rich, yet for our sake, He became poor, so that by His poverty we might become rich.”(2Cor 8:9) Jesus Christ emptied Himself completely for the glory of the Father and for our salvation. Everything that Jesus had He placed at the service of the Father and for our salvation. His lips spoke only words of healing and forgiveness. His heart moved only with pity for us. His hands touched and healed lepers and fed thousands. His body He took to the cross to shed His last drop of blood for us. He received all from the Father, “All that the Father has is mine.”(Jn 16:15) and He kept nothing for Himself. He even gave His own mother Mary to us on the Cross to be our mother too! We become “rich in what matters to God” when we are not just striving to get more but we are also striving to use all for the greater glory of God and for the needs of others.
St. Paul reminds us that we are indeed rich in Jesus Christ now because we are now citizens of heaven, entering into a deep relationship with the Father in Christ, “Think of what is above, not what is on earth.” In the midst of the myriad of earthly cares, we can only strive for perfect communion with the Triune God in heaven because in Jesus Christ, “we have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” We are created in the image of God. That image has been restored in baptism and it is being gradually perfected as we follow the prompting of divine grace to make use of all that we have and are in seeking the glory of the Father and in serving the needs of others. Because this image of God in us is oriented towards perfection in Jesus Christ, we become rich fools when we pursue the things of this life without thought for our vocation to be conformed to the image of Jesus who willingly laid all down, including Himself, for the Father’s glory and for our salvation.
The author of Ecclesiastes teaches us two qualities of vanity or vain pursuits. First, we labor for them but we cannot hold on to them forever, “Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave his property.” Secondly, we labor for them but they cannot give us peace, “All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” Our relationship with God is the only thing that we can strive for and hold on to in this life and in the next and the only thing that can guarantee us lasting peace in this world. Rich fools strive for all things and neglect striving for growth in this relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what are we striving for in life now? Are we so focused on getting more that we no longer search for how to use all for God and for neighbor? In and through our fervent relationship with God in Jesus Christ, we shall strive for the things of this world with the peace and conviction that we are children of the Father, that the Father knows what we need before we ask Him (Mt 6:8) and that, if He is pleased to give us the kingdom (Lk 12:32), He would not refuse us any good that we need. It is also the loving presence of Jesus in our lives that impels us to use all that we have not for ourselves but for the greater glory of the Father and for the needs of all people. “By this is my Father glorified that you become my disciples and bear much fruit.”(Jn 15:8)
Without a life focused on and grounded on Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, we are condemned to be rich fools in this life, people who strive to get the things of this world by all means whatsoever and who give no thought of our relationship with God or with others, people who spend all their time and energy seeking with troubled and anxious hearts for something that must be abandoned eventually in death.
I was reminded of how badly we need Jesus Christ to set us free from foolishness in riches some months ago when I saw a video of the Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the price of aborted fetuses over a dinner table. The babies are murdered and dismembered, their need for life and respect are ignored, their body parts are casually sold for money, the company thrives financially, and the will of God for the babies and their mothers to get a chance to become more like Christ His Son is completely ignored. How easy it is for us to become fools in the abundance of our riches when the light of Christ’s love is dimmed in our hearts.
Let us bring all our striving in this life to the Eucharist today to be purified by Jesus, who kept nothing of His abundant riches for Himself but used all for our salvation and the Father’s greater glory. We have a rich communion with the Triune God in the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ because Jesus received all and gave all for us. He will surely help us to strive peacefully for the things of this life with hope as God’s beloved children. Most importantly, He will continue to move us to become rich like He was. When we strive to be more in His image, we shall indeed become rich in what really matters to God and avoid being rich fools in this life.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!