Rich in What Matters, 29th Monday (II), October 20, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross
October 20, 2014
Eph 2:1-10, Ps 100, Lk 12:13-21

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel, there is a huge contrast between two types of riches, two types of inheritance, two types of legacy, one very often sought by those who are spiritually worldly, the other counseled by Jesus, one ultimately a patrimony of monopoly money, the second an endowment of God. It’s important for us to enter into this scene which is as relevant today as it was what someone in the crowd shouted the question to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
  • Over my priestly life, I have been stunned by how many people have made appointments to come to see me to get advice as to how to persuade a sibling or a cousin more fairly to allocate a last will and testament, or to ask what to do to sell the paternal home for full market value and evict one of the brothers and sisters still living there because that sibling can’t afford to pay the siblings the value of the house, or disputes over jewelry and the like. Similar disputes have taken place in my extended family when nieces have become executors of wills and then sought to consume all of the deceased uncle’s property and not allocate it according to his intentions, basically inviting the other cousins to sue in probate court if they don’t like it. I’ve seen families divided, sometimes for decades, because of such inheritance disputes.
  • Whenever anyone comes to see me about such things, I remind them immediately of the scene in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ response to the man’s request for Jesus to command his brother to give him his share of the inheritance is, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Jesus didn’t come from heaven to earth to settle inheritance disputes but to make us aware of a totally different type of inheritance. He was the one who told the Parable of the Prodigal Son, of course, which begins with a hunger for an inheritance that leads one to treat his father as if he were already dead. All sin can be summarized in a sense by a desire to place possessions, or money, and ultimately oneself over other people, including one’s family members. St. Paul would say that “love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10).
  • Jesus gave an important antidote as medicine against this spirit of acquisitiveness that leads to all types of sins:  “Take care to guard against all greed,” Jesus says, “for … one’s life does not consist of possessions.” He then tells a parable about the rich fool who was blessed with a bountiful harvest who instead of sharing any of his good fortune with those who were hungry after the harvest of grain had filled up the barns he already had, decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones in an unbelievable building project of selfishness. The man egocentrically said to himself, “As for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years.” He didn’t care that many others didn’t have the bare necessities. And that led to other excesses as he convinced himself to “rest, eat, drink and be merry!” Charity wasn’t even in the picture. And he had a rude awakening coming. That night he would die. “You, fool, this night your life will be demanded of you,” Jesus puts into the mouth of his Father. “And the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” Jesus drew the moral of the story: “Thus it will be for the one who stores up treasure for himself, but is not rich in what matters to God.”
  • We’re living in a culture of the grain bin. We obsess about storing treasures or even junk up for ourselves, constantly building new storage facilities to house the stuff that can no longer fit in our homes, rather than giving the stuff we don’t need away. Perhaps the most ubiquitous grain bin of all are financial portfolios, where so many obsess about seeing them grow, while often few think nearly as much if at all about how to share those blessings with others, especially those in desperate need. To all of us in this culture, Jesus calls us to become rich in what matters to God. In the passage right after today’s section, which unfortunately is not included, Jesus tells us: “Sell your belonging and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
  • How do we become rich what matters to God? St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading, taken from his Letter to the Ephesians. He says that God first enriches us with his merciful love, with himself, and wants us to grow more and more merciful like him. “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us …  brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” To be truly rich is to be like God and God is supposed to be our inheritance and our treasure. As we pray in Psalm 16, “You are my inheritance, O Lord!” “I say to the Lord, you are my Lord, you are my only good. … You, Lord, are my allotted portion and my cup. … Fair to me indeed is my inheritance.”
  • Today we celebrate a saint who took this inheritance seriously, who sought to become rich in what matters. St. Paul of the Cross founded a religious order that has helped the entire Church ponder far more the infinite riches of God’s mercy and love as shown for us on the Cross. He treasured the power and wisdom Christ gives us from the Cross and sought to help others become similarly wealthy. It’s from the Cross that Jesus gives us the treasure of his body and blood for our salvation that we’re about to receive, it’s here that he raises us up with him, it’s here that we receive in time the “immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness” that we hope to enjoy forever.
  • Today with St. Paul of the Cross we turn to God the Father and ask him to share his Son’s full inheritance with us, knowing that that’s been part of God’s merciful plan of love since before the foundation of the world. And with this treasure we seek not to build grain bins, but to allow him to build us and through us build up the Church in accordance with this greatest wealth of all.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 eph 2:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
You were dead in your transgressions and sins
in which you once lived following the age of this world,
following the ruler of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient.
All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh,
following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses,
and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.
But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.

Responsorial Psalm ps 100:1b-2, 3, 4ab, 4c-5

R. (3b) The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Sing joyfully to the LORD all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.
Give thanks to him; bless his name, for he is good:
the LORD, whose kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. The Lord made us, we belong to him.

Gospel lk 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”