FR. GERALD MUSA HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: VANITY OF VANITIES
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY JULY 31 2022
The book of Ecclesiastes conveys a hard truth by stating: “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). This book of the scriptures looks critically at some concrete facts of life where “one labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,” and another who has not labored enjoys what the hard worker is leaving behind. Furthermore, the author of the book reflects on the rhythm of life and on how a person toils with anxiety under the sun, and yet all his days are marked with sorrow and grief and even at night, his mind cannot rest. All these, he says, are vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23).
Jesus instructs his disciples to guard against vainglory. He says, “Take care,” “to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. Jesus illustrated his point with the parable of the “Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-20). God took the rich fool away from the world when he was in the middle of building an earthly kingdom for himself alone. Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “Thus will it be for those who store up treasures (money and property) for themselves and are not rich in matters of God” (Luke 12:21).
It is not a sin to be rich and to expand one’s wealth. The sin of the rich fool was the sin of omission – the good things he failed to do with his money. He excluded the poorest of the poor, the marginalized, the orphans, widows, and the helpless sick from his budget. He made his possessions his obsessions. He considered his valuables to be more important than the value of charity. He was simply self-centered, full of himself, and greedy. He was enjoying the gift of life and forgetting about the goodness of the giver. He was attached to the good gifts that life had given him and he was detached from the Giver of all that he possessed.
Some of us are privileged to earn a six-digit or seven-digit salary or profit, others end up with a five or four-digit salary or monthly profit. The important thing is not how much do we get but what percentage do we dedicate for the up-keep of our Church and Charity? Wealth is a seed that is planted to be reaped in the future. Those who are intelligent save a considerable amount for their retirement, but those who are wiser save much more by planting the seed of good works for their life after death. The problem we normally have is that of shortsightedness in designing a long-term plan that includes life after this world. Like the rich fool, we are often unable to see beyond our nose.
There are times when we wish we were rich enough to carry out some big projects for the less privileged. We must not necessarily be millionaires to be able to help those who are in need. He who can share the little he has now, is more likely to do the same when he has much. On the contrary, he who is not able to share his very little resources with others is unlikely to do so when he is given the whole kingdom of the earth.
Very often the world considers the worth of a person according to what he has. Sometimes we hear on the radio or television or read from the newspaper, that this man or woman is worth 60 billion or 1 billion. It means some people are worth just 10 dollars. The value of a person must not be dependent on his or her valuables but on the values, he or stands for, and not on how much a person has but on how he or she uses his or her resources for the benefit of others.
King Alexander the Great is renowned in history as a man who had enormous wealth and political power. He was greatly feared as he conquered territories and exercised authority. Despite his wealth and power, he was aware of his mortal nature and that someday he would die. At some point in his life, he was afflicted by a fatal sickness and he realised this world is only a temporary place and so he expressed three wishes:
1. I desire that when I die only the Doctors should carry my coffin. This is to tell the world that no physician has the power to cure or save his patient from death.
2. I want the road to my grave to be decorated with gold, silver, and precious stones. This is to tell the world that even though I spent time and energy chasing wealth, I am leaving them all behind.
3. Lastly, both of my hands should be stuck out of the coffin to show the world that I came with empty hands and that I am returning to my creator with empty hands.
This story of Alexander the Great should help us understand St. Paul’s instruction, which says, “Set your minds on the things that are above and not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
In conclusion, we can draw some wisdom from St Basil the great who says: “Now you are going to leave your money behind you here whether you like it or not, but on the other hand you will be taking with you to the Lord the credit obtained for your good works.” The Philosopher Francis Bacon says, Money is a good servant but a bad master. Money and wealth are good servants to enable us to achieve important goals in life, but they are bad masters when they begin to control us. We use the money for food, shelter, clothing, travelling, charity, etc. The problem begins when we become so obsessed with money and wealth that nothing else matters. When we give less time to God and more time for the pursuit of wealth and when we put God on the sidelines and money in the centre. Therefore, St. Vincent Pallotti advises us to depend more on God and less on material things. He says, “Not the goods of the world, but God. Not riches, but God. Not honors, but God. Not distinction, but God. Not dignities, but God. Not advancement, but God. God always and in everything.”
18th Sunday of the Year C; Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21; Photo credit: oslcpagosa.org