Today’s reflection is for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 4, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the crowd what I think we all need to hear. He tells them, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Let that sink in a bit, though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. My brothers, we must remain on guard lest we become possessed by our possessions.
To be possessed means to be influenced or controlled by something. Many times we talk about people being possessed by an evil Spirit, that takes control of their mind and body. To be possessed is to longer do what we want to do. We act in a way that we know we should not act and do things that we know we should not do. Most of us will not be possessed by a demon or an evil Spirit, but I bet we’ve all been possessed by our possessions at one point or another.
We grow up being told how important money is. We are told that we need to get an education so we can get a good job so we can make lots of money and have lots of things! From as early as I can remember I was told that money is KING…get that money! Game shows, radio, tv shows, the lottery; all promise joy and happiness that we’re led to believe can only be found in stuff. And we buy it, and hoard it, and we become slaves.
We fill our rooms with pants, shoes, jackets, and jewelry. We fill our houses with furniture, dishes, and paintings. Our garages with tools, boxes, bins, cars, boats and trailers. We buy sheds when our garages can’t hold any more stuff, and we rent storage facilities when our houses and garages, and sheds overflow…and then we buy locks, and security cameras, and alarms–because we don’t want anybody stealing our stuff! We are entirely convinced that when we have that one more thing…then we’ll be happy. We just need a little more money. We strive for it. We dream about it. We steal for it. We hurt people to get it. We even kill people to have their money, or what they have bought with money.
Have you ever seen The Lord of the Rings? Gollum wants the ring so badly–it’s the only thing he cares about. He is willing to kill for it, and because it’s the only thing he thinks about, it slowly kills him. Do you know people like that? Do you know people who nothing is ever good enough and nothing is ever enough?
Today’s message is a message that leads to liberation, true freedom, and life. Today’s message is an important reminder that we need to be a lot less selfish and a lot more self-less. We are called not to be rich in the stuff of this world, but instead to be rich in what matters to God. What a funny thing to think about: What matters to God, that we might be rich in it? The Gospel story that Jesus tells is like someone today making it rich with business or with the lottery. All at once you have more than you could ever have dreamed about, but the next day, you’re gone. What a wasted life. A life without meaning, and life without true wealth that brings joy and lasting happiness.
What is the wealth of happiness? What is the treasure of God? What should we be storing up right now that will last for eternity? God told Solomon that all he had to do was ask, and God would give him anything he wanted. Solomon did not ask for gold or women or power, he asked instead for wisdom to lead God’s people.
It would be good to be rich in wisdom. How about if we were rich is counseling others? If we always gave good advice to friends and family? Have you ever had a friend who always seemed to know what was good? What if you could do that for others?
Wouldn’t it be great if we were like the Bill Gates of knowledge? If we could know a ton of stuff and help figure out the world’s problems? If you’re like me, you need to be rich in strength. Sometimes I cave too easily! I too often go with the flow when I should stand against the storm. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that I’ve been talking about. Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, Counsel, Strength, Piety, Fear of the Lord. If you want to pray for riches–God wants to give you these! Honestly, how often do we pray to be rich in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?
Or how often do we pray to be rich in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit? I want you to think about your heavenly bank account, are you wealthy in love–both what you give and what you get? Are you rich in joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and self control. If you’re like me, you’re barely able to pay the rent with some of these! Far from being rich in the things that matter to God, I’m actually broke!
And that my friends is a scary thought. I spend most of the minutes of my entire day trying to get the riches of the world–and I can’t even take it with me when I die, and that could be on the way home today. I spend so little time acquiring the wealth that matters to God. I spend too little time being generous and patient and kind. St. Paul tells us that all those who have been raised with Christ are to “seek what is above,” and “not on what is on earth.” My brothers, I think we all have some work to do. Don’t wait. Start investing in God today. Pray for and seek what is above. Amen?