18th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Sunday 31 July 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 2: 21-23; Responsorial: Psalm 90; II: Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Gospel: Luke: 12:13-21
Creation is often a best commentary on Scripture. The readings from Scripture this Sunday speak clearly and eloquently of God’s design and call for us to be stewards of the things of life but never to be possessed by them. The simple tree on a hill helps us understand what this means. The healthy tree has many leaves. Each is important as a part of the wealth of health and fruitfulness for which the tree is created. But the tree never possesses the leaf. In the Autumn, if decidous the leaves all will fall. But even in the summer, or if evergreen the leaves will be falling, regularly. The tree is created to know that it must let go of each leaf it has, if new life is to come. Although we humans have difficulty allowing that freedom the same truth does apply. This can bring us to seek God’s grace to see and grow in the truth that our wealth fuels our witness.
In this post modern world much of humanity has come to equate their worth and power in life by what they possess. This quest for value and strength has brought about immense pressures on not just humanity in general but creation and those seeking to live for God. For many centuries now the vocation of stewardship of the environment, and each other has been sacrificed upon altars of self-centeredness and greed. We need not look far to realize and see these abuses in our culture, politics and even our faith. It is time to allow God to bring us back to God’s values and to allow our witness to share our eternal wealth and worth… to share God. These mercies will cause us to take inventory of our possessions, practices and positions.
Our Possessions: Jesus taught that our life is not made up in what we possess. The Gospel for this Sunday speaks of the farmer who, after an abundant harvest built better barns in which to store his wealth. Little did the man know God would call his soul to cross into eternity that very night, without a single one of his possessions, his treasures. Let us be very clear, in this life, on this earth we need some things. Food, shelter, clothing, family, friends. God blesses us with many things that enhance and bring pleasure to this life. God may also bring the ability of travel and the graces to enjoy beautiful places and things. And that is all very good. UNLESS those things of life we think we possess in truth possess us. Does what we have, where we can go, or how we may travel become our identity? Does it become who the world sees? Or how we see ourself? In other words does our material wealth become our testimony? This discernment is needed not just about clothing, vehicles, places or things but also our faith. Is our witness of God, of Christ focused upon a material image of how we see our worship, our prayers, or devotion? Sometimes it happens where our faith becomes obscured by so much ornamentation, however beautiful it might be. This can apply to the very ornate altar in a great cathedral or in the proud austerity in some styles of worship. Our relationshup with God is about so much more than things and appearances.
Our Practices: False treasure can also be hoarded in our practices. We are creatures of habit. Some habits are good and help us grow in faith, holiness and love, real eternal treasures. Some habits are basically neutral. It may not be bad to always eat as you were taught. But it may be a good thing for health and even imagination to try other foods. Such practices may not harm us or others but they also may not enable us to grow. And some practices are sinful, destructive and cause harm to spirit soul and body, either personally or may include others.
Our practices are often valued treasures. For many of us we treasure the ability to go to Mass, to receive Christ truly Present in Word and Eucharist. During the early days of Covid we learned how much a treasure our faith and worship are in our lives.
But not all our practices, our habits are good. Eating disorders, substance abuse, addictive practices can both possess and destroy health and life. Great may be the struggle to be free from unhealthy practices. But the graces of God usually begin with first steps of taking responsibility for those wrongs and then developing the holy, liberating steps of conversion and penance. But, like the tree we must let go of the dead leaf before a new one will come.
Our treasured practices will be evident, perhaps not to others but always before God and as it is with our possessions so it is with our practices we must allow God to be our greatest treasure. This is often rooted in our positions.
Our Positions: Treasured positions is not about where we sit or rest. It is about the focus and perspectives of our heart and soul. To understand how a person’s position impacts their wealth, their life we need to just look around us. Look at the big issues in our world and church. There are those who hold, dearly, the position that they must have the freedom to have as many and whatever guns they choose. This brings to these precious souls a sense of power and control in a world that is not all that stable. In our faith we encounter issues where our witness for Christ is held hostage by rigourous positions that will not allow us to listen, learn and perhaps share the Gospel in ways and with souls we may think unworthy. Fear often brings us to the false security of a position behind a wall instead of the effort to build a bridge. Yet throughout the history of faith we see the greatest treasure, God, calling to and leading men, women and children to step out of the comfort zones of their positions, their attitudes or focus and to see God is leading.
Our Gospel closes today with Jesus challenging us to let Him show us if we are rich in what matters to God. AIs the wealth of our life the wealth of God and His kingdom? To answer that question is to examine our examine our witness. What, or Whom does our life proclaim, not just for an hour or two a week but throughout our days and for eternity?