BY: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)



*Eccl 1 :2 – 2:23, Col 3 :1-11, Lk 12 :13 – 21.

“Nothing distracts people like possessions”, says Fr Victor Ezema in his reflection on today’s homily a few years ago. One of the most dangerous traps of mortal man on earth is materialism and one of the greatest teachings of Jesus Christ is against materialism.
Materialism is the evil of worshipping wealth or material things – the 3rd temptation of Christ according to the gospel account of Matthew 4: 8 – 11. I think it is the most deadly trap for Christians among all the 10 commandments because it is usually the last battle to overcome in the spiritual journey of every man. According to the philosopher Confusius, ‘Lust is the sin of youth, power the sin of middle age and avarice (materialism) the sin of old age’.

Today’s 1st reading, Eccl 1: 2 attacks Epicureanism – the ancient philosophy of materialism by saying: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity… What does man gain by all the toils with which he toils under the sun?’
The psalmist captures this idea in Psalm 14: ‘The fool has said in his heart “There is no God”. Their deeds are corrupt, depraved, not one of them does right… Yahweh looks down from heaven at the children of Adam to see if a single one is wise, a single one seeks God… All have turned away, all alike turned sour, not one of them does right, not a single one ‘.

Materialism has become so widespread that it is found even in our Churches and holy places. There are various dimensions of materialism as follows;
(a) Physical materialism: Excess acquisition of material wealth.
(b) Intellectual materialism: Excess love for knowledge and acquisition of academic titles as if everything depends on ideas – as if knowledge is virtue.
(c) Political materialism: Excess drive for power and influence – failure of those in power to want to relinquish power to others.
(d) Religious materialism: Worshipping God for material reasons and praying always for wealth as if that is all that God has in store for his children.

In today’s gospel, we are presented with the parables of foolishness – 2 foolish /materialistic people; the foolish poor man struggling for land with his elder brother and the foolish rich man whose wealth became his Idol.
– The folly of the poor man is analyzed as follows;
(a) Struggles for land and material things are insufficient reasons to disturb our psycho – spiritual equilibrium because these are values that only make us earth – bound.
(b) Jesus is not supposed to come down to the level of a land arbiter (Even Parish priests are not supposed to do that. It is the job of the ‘Igwes’). He has more noble spiritual concerns than to spend his time arbitrating on land matters.
– The folly of the rich man is analyzed as follows;
(a) His assumption of a long life is the 1st trap of rich men.
(b) He believed that his happiness consisted in abundant riches forgetting that there are so many things that money can’t buy such as wisdom, true friends, long life and eternal life.
(c) When he had a bumper harvest, he did not think of sharing his wealth with others.
* His language turned into ‘my, me, mine, I’ – A little boy asked by his English teacher to identify these words called them ‘aggressive pronouns’.
* Your excess wealth belongs, by right, to the poor. Christian theology is against saving for the unknown future when your neighbour has a present need. But one can save for a perceived future need.
Caveat: Christian theology is against Communism – the theory of Karl Marx that every rich man is a thief because he is holding what belongs to the poor. This is an extreme view that encourages laziness. The Church encourages moderate capitalism.
(d) He had no place for God in his diary. He forgot that ‘man proposes but God disposes’.
*Story of a frustrated rich man at retirement age: Can’t talk with his wife (because of quarrel); Don’t know his children and they don’t know him (because he was too busy with his career when they were growing up); Couldn’t enjoy music, literature or any art (because he was a hard man always doing hard things); Couldn’t play hockey again (because his health was failing him); He ended up committing suicide.
*Quote Fred Bauer: ‘Some are too interested in making a living that they forget to live’.
*Last wishes of Alexander the great:
1. Best doctors to carry his coffin,
2. His money to be spread on the way to his graveside, and
3. An opening on his coffin with his both hands showing emptiness.

Today’s 2nd reading enjoins us to kill everything in us that is materialistic, Col 2 & 3. Archbishop Fulton Sheen discusses them as 7 capital sins; (i) Lust (Ikwa iko), (ii) Avarice (Oke ochicho), (iii) Pride (Ngala), (iv) Wrath (Oke iwe), (v) Envy (Ekworo), (vi) Gluttony (Oke anurima na eririma), (vii) Sloth (Umengwu).
*Take a look at an audition test on spiritual maturity conducted by a Monastic Abbey / Zen Master:
(i) Enough Insults (to test his pride), (ii) A beautiful girl (to seduce him into Lust, (iii) A plate of well garnished rice and meat (to test his gluttony), (iv) A quarrelsome brother as roommate (to test his control of anger), (v) A more favoured younger brother (to test his envy), (vi) Lands /properties to share (to test his avarice), (vii) Serious manual labour (to test his sloth).
Anybody that claims to be born – again must deal with these passions and be renewed in the image of our Creator, 2 Cor 3 :18.

Covetousness is a sickness of the soul. The folly of covetousness is lack of foresight for tomorrow; the danger of covetousness is the trouble that goes with wealth (psychophants /false friends, restlessness, sicknesses like obesity, high bp, fear of enemies, etc); the sin of covetousness is that it allows no place for God (makes you prayerless and loveless, selfish and foolish). If it happened to Solomon (with all his wisdom), it can also happen to any of us if care is not taken.
Christ concludes with these words: ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat nor about your body… Think of the ravens… It is gentiles of this world who set their hearts on all these things. No, set your hearts on his kingdom and these other things will be given you as well ‘, Lk 12 : 22 – 31. Happy Sunday beloved friends!

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