Monday, July 29, 2013

Homily 18th SUNDAY OF YEAR C: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 18th SUNDAY OF YEAR C: Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Eccl 1:2;2:21-23; Ps 90:3-6,12-13; Col 3:1-5,9-11; Luke 12:13-21

Using our Wealth Wisely and Responsibly

Last Sunday Jesus taught us how to pray. Today he teaches us how to use what we have wisely; not allowing material things to run or rule our life. This could be very challenging in a time and century that materialism seems to have eaten deep into the fabric of our society. I am very sure; today in order to win an election or be elected into public office in most countries you need tons of money. You need a lot of money to go to college. Some marriages, and who we love or relate with are also determined by material assets. Even social status at social gatherings are getting to be measured by what we wear or the type of car or jet we travel on, or expensive homes we live in.

These may not be evil in themselves, but how we use them. Setting our priorities right.  We want to use our wealth and gifts wisely for the greater glory of God. This is the message that comes through in today’s scriptural readings beginning with the gospel parable of the “rich fool,” (Luke 12:13-21).

 Here Jesus is busy teaching us about the Kingdom and someone made his way from the crowd and reached out to Jesus with a request; “Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” On the surface there seems to be no direct antecedent to this problem. Looking at it closely there is no surprise.   In the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4 Jesus made it clear that he came for the sick, the poor and the oppressed. In  chapter 6 he preached a sermon that, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God....," similar to that of the mountain in Matthew 5. Others are the stories of the the Prodical Son in chapter 15, the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16, the Tax Collector in chapter 18, and of Zacchaeus in chapter 19. Clearly the Lukan Jesus  has a great concern for the poor! They were top on his list.

  Or in addition, could it be that the questioner presumed or indirectly acknowledged the divine knowledge of Jesus. He is omniscience. He knows everything, everyone, every family. Jesus knows there are two or three brothers or sisters out there fighting over property, money or material things.

His response to the questioner is divine, wise and holy. He says to the person, “Friend who appointed me a judge or an arbitrator” over you. Jesus called the person “friend.” He warned the crowd against creed. Jesus came to reconcile us to friendship with God and to each other.Greed and selfishness should not be the priorities of his followers.

 Jesus wisely expanded on his response by using this parable of the rich fool, who stored up plenty food and material stuff in his store with the hope that a time will come when his soul would be idle, doing nothing, except making merriment with his accumulated goods. The treasurer here is not wise, but a foolish and greedy because, she or he wouldn’t even live to enjoyed the things ignorantly and selfishly treasured.

The message of Jesus, is meant to remind us that material possessions do not give full meaning to life. God is the one that give life meaning. What matters most is not material or earthly treasures but spiritual and heavenly treasure. St. Paul calls these spiritual treasures, “things that are above.”  He says, “Brothers and sisters, “if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think what is above, not what is on earth” (Col 3:1-5, 9-11).

And put differently, the preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes says “all things are vanity.” Labor without God is vanity. Money, cars, houses, clothing, property, material treasures without God are all in vain.

This is in line with the visions of our recent Popes, (Benedict XVI and Francis) which I always admire. Pope Francis stresses the need to reach out to the poor everywhere, the needy, the downtrodden, those in prisons, and in the slums, the homeless, and of course, modesty in our life style. We saw this in his recent ministry in Brazil, during the 28th World Youth Day.  Benedict on the other hand, from the beginning of his Petrine Ministry challenged what he called “dictatorship of relativism.” Close to these two visions is “dictatorship of materialism;” allowing material things  and greed to run and detect how we live our life.

We must not allow our shoes to wear us. But we ought to wear our shoes. We must not allow our dresses and shirts to wear us. But we wear our dresses and shirts. Our cars don’t drive us, but we drive our cars, we use our cell phones, we use our money, we drink those drinks, those drinks must not drink us. We eat those foods, those foods don’t eat us! In other words, our material things must be used wisely and responsibly for the common good; for the good of the community, and for the greater glory of God. We must set our priorities right, our choices!

 The "we" include  even the G-8, richer nations and individuals to ponder as to the best way to treasure the goods of the world economy. Is it better to open up the global economic market to every nation, and encourage global participation, or to keep, monopolize the treasure tightly and closely for fewer nations? In the so called Third-World” countries where the percentage of poverty is rising, is it better for rich individuals in those countries to keep their wealth and (billions) in their countries for their well-being, or to treasure them selfishly or greedily in foreign banks, like the rich person in today's gospel?

The other day I stopped-by our food pantry, the out reach. I admired the wonderful work they do. I discovered how generous you are in sharing your food, clothing, books, house items, and things you don’t really need with our less privileged brothers and sisters. God will continue to bless you. By doing this, you are wiser than the foolish person in today’s gospel.

Our prayer is that the Lord may continue to bless every nation and everyone, and we may use wisely and generously every gifts that God has blessed us with.