Sunday, August 4, 2013

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle “C” August , 2013

          In today’s Gospel we hear this sobering line: “This night your life will be demanded of you.”   This night, August 4th , your life will be demanded of you.” .....    
Could be.  We know that this blunt and startling statement someday will be true for each of us.  For some night, or some morning, or some day, your life will be demanded of you, and my life will be demanded of me.   There will be no continuations, no extensions, no appeals.  It could be a disease, an accident, or just old age.  It could be a surprise.  It was already 47 years ago on August 1st that a gunman with a high powered rifle in the UT tower killed 14 people and wounded 32 others.  It could be a lot of things, but it will be something.      So let us assume, that like in the Gospel, it is tonight.   Hmmmmm.
          What do you look back on?  What is important to you?     In the Gospel today Jesus assures us: “one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  Obviously there is much more to life than possessions.  You probably were not thinking about your favorite possessions just now.  But we do spend an awful lot of time and energy earning, buying, and accumulating stuff.
          The rich man in the Gospel runs into a problem: “I do not have space to store my harvest”.  Anyone here ever run into that problem, not have enough space to store all your possessions, all your stuff?   Yeah, most of us.  So we sometimes do what the rich man did - not tear down our barns and build bigger ones - but we get more space:  we rent a storage locker, we buy more organizers and storage units, sometimes we get a bigger house, or at least we wish we had more space to store more stuff. 
          But, ... “one’s life does not consist of possessions.”    So, ¿What does it consist of?   In the second reading from St. Paul to the Colossians, Paul urges us “seek what is above.”  What does Paul mean?  What is “above”???
          Well, the things of God, the things of the Holy Spirit.  Immediately following the passage we have as our second reading today, St. Paul continues:  Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another,  …over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.    … let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.   And be thankful.”
          These are the things that are above.  As Christians, followers of Jesus, our life is to be much more about these things that are above than about possessions and money.  The rich man in the Gospel is labeled by God a fool, because he stored up treasure for himself, but was “not rich in what matters to God.”  
          Being rich in what matters to God does not require bigger barns, nor more closet space, nor storage lockers, nor anything like that, but it does require a bigger heart.  It means being rich in heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and especially in Faith, Hope and Love. 
          Now please understand that the Gospel is not telling us that money and possessions are bad.  The rich man in the Gospel was a fool because he stored up his treasures for himself.  He was a fool because of his greed and self-centeredness, not because he was rich.  He was a fool because he thought the bounty of his harvest was all about him.  He foolishly failed to recognize that this blessing was given to him for a purpose, as a privilege and a responsibility to help others. 
          The poor and the middle class can be just as greedy as any rich person.   Greed is about a stance of clutching and grasping.  The opposite of greed is generosity, a stance of openness.  And the poor can also be as generous as any billionaire.
          Money is therefore, not about accumulating more and more possessions, but about doing good with it: supporting yourself and your family, and then helping to alleviate suffering, and making the world a better place.  With wealth comes the opportunity, and the responsibility, to grow rich in what matters to God. 
          “This night your life will be demanded of you.”  It is a sobering thought.  But in contradiction to our first reading today, we do not believe that “All things are vanity!”
          Wealth does not need to make us greedy.  We do not need to waste our lives in mindless consumerism and the exhausting and silly pursuit of more and more useless stuff.  Shopping is not our destiny.  We are called to more than that.  The gift of God’s Holy Spirit calls us to a new way of life in Christ.
           As St. Paul exhorts us in today’s second reading:
“Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”

And that is something to look forward to!

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