Sunday, August 5, 2007

Like sands through the hourglass...

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 5, 2007:

“Though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.”

If Shakespeare were to hear our Gospel today, he would be likely to say perhaps, “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end.” Or, “Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth and delves the parallels in beauty’s brow.” No one was more distressed by the transience of life and the destructiveness of time than Shakespeare. For his character Macbeth, life was a “brief candle – a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” For Prospero, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Or as a more contemporary reference might put it, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” [Cue the music.]

“Though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.” Our readings today cause us to reflect upon the question of what makes a life? Or certainly, what makes a successful life? Too often, in our material-obsessed, fame-obsessed culture, it is the accumulation of things that equals success. You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker before, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” To this notion God’s Word says, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” And, “Brothers and sister…seek what is above.”

“One’s life does not consist of possessions.” Possessions, of course, are necessary for life. But possessions can assume such an importance in our lives that they become obsessions. When we are so concerned about the things that we can have, so much so that we no longer hear the urgent call of God, then we have got our priorities all mixed up.

Such is the man in today’s Gospel who asks Jesus to come and make his brother give him his share of the family inheritance. Jesus is not against him having more wealth, nor is he against justice being done between him and his brother. Jesus is rather disappointed because He has been sharing with him the very words of life, preaching the Gospel of salvation, and after listening to all His preaching, the first concern of this man still remains his share of the inheritance. The words of life fell upon deaf ears. The man probably could not remember one word of what Jesus said.

I heard someone say once, “Some people get up in the morning and their first thought is ‘What can I get today?’ and others get up in the morning and their first thought is, ‘What can I give today?’” The second question is the only one that will ever make you happy.

Jesus, fearing there could be more people in the crowd like this man, turns and says to them, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.” To illustrate his point Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. When we hear this parable we might ask, “What wrong did this man do?” Think about it. The man did his honest work on his farmland. The land gave a bumper harvest. The man decided do build a larger storage for the crop so that he could live the rest of his life on Easy Street. Only he did not know that the rest of his life was less than 24 hours. Jesus uses him to make the point that putting material before God is a wasted effort; one that will do you no good in eternity. The man’s greed lies not in what he did; but rather in what he failed to do. Instead of using his wealth for the good of others – what can I give today – he used it only to better himself.

There is a quote that says, greed is “the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can, while we can, however we can and then hold on to it as hard as we can.” This is the rich man. Instead of placing God first, he gave priority to the false god of materialism. When we are focused on the true God, we look at what we have in life and ask the other question, “What can I give today?”

Today’s Gospel invites us to believe in the God of Jesus Christ who alone can give eternal life and not in the god of this world who gives us the false promise of immortality through accumulation of possessions. “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” God calls us to use whatever we have to further His kingdom. God calls us to realize that the most valuable possession in the world is faith in His Son; and we should desire to be rich in what matters to God.

The life to come is not made secure by what we own, but rather by what we are – in our dealings with others, and in the sight of God. Let us all pray today to become rich in the sight of God – rich in the Words, the Will and the Way of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What will you give today?

May God give you peace.

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