Tuesday of the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

In these last couple of days, Jesus is taking the time to set things right about what it means to be rich and famous. Today’s Gospel reading comes right after yesterday’s report of the rich young man. As you remember, Jesus looked at the young man and loved him, and then challenged him to give up his possessions and follow him. But the young man went away sad, for he had many possessions. To this, Peter replies, “We have given up everything and followed you.” I don’t know if this is boasting, or frustration, or some mix of the two. But Jesus responds to his assertion by telling him that now, in the present age, those who give up everything will receive so much more.

I don’t think Jesus was trying to put forth a prosperity gospel here, though. I really don’t think he was saying they’d be rich and famous in the present age. What he was saying is that they would be rich in what matters to God, rich in the Holy Spirit, rich in love and mercy. And it’s that last line that brings it all into focus: “many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” By being the least, giving up everything, they will be first in the Kingdom of God, which was and is here among God’s people.

So for all of us, rich young men, or overzealous disciples, or just plain folks who want to inherit eternal life, Jesus looks at us and loves us, and calls us to give up everything that’s in the way, so that we can be the last who will be first. What is it that we have to let go of today so that we can be first in the Kingdom of God?

Saturday of the Thirty-first Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“The love of money is the root of all evil.” “Money can’t buy happiness.” We have all sorts of proverbs that aim to keep us at right relationship not just with our financial resources, but really with all the many gifts that we have. Today’s Liturgy of the Word gives us some humble pointers too on this important issue.

St. Paul, in thanking his friends in Philippi for their generous support of his ministry, tells them: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” His gratitude isn’t so much that their gift to him filled him with plenty, but instead that their gift was a testament to their faith, and their love for the Gospel he preached to them. He was able to use that gift to further his ministry elsewhere, making Christ known to others who longed to hear of him.

Jesus today speaks to the Pharisees, who, as the Gospel today tells us, “loved money.” He tells them that their love of money was not going to lead them to God. Instead, it leads them to dishonest transactions with dishonest people. Just as a servant cannot serve two masters, so they could not expect to serve both God and mammon, the so-called god of material wealth and greed.

We live in times where the love of money has led us to considerable evil. Greed and the desire for instant gratification has led people to be overspent and overextended. Major corporations, greedy for more wealth, playing off the misguided desires of so many people, have defaulted, and others have grown rich at the expense of the poor. Major breaches in retail security have cost millions of dollars due to hacking of financial information. In these days, it may be well for us to hear that we cannot serve both God and mammon. It may be well for us to come to the conclusion that we can live in both abundance and need. And it’s never a bad time to hear that we need to make God our only God, yet again.

The Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time [C]

Today’s readings

This has been a rather busy pastoral week for me.  I’ve had a couple of funerals this week, and seem to have been called to the hospital a little more frequently than what I’d consider usual.  I’ve ministered to a couple whose baby was stillborn; I anointed a child and a woman in her 80s.  It all reminded me that, no matter what stage of life we’re at, we’re fragile.  Our human flesh is a frail thing.

And so, when I hear these readings on a week like this, it sends a little chill of recognition into my heart.  We here live in a very affluent society.  We are in one of the most well-to-do counties in the most prosperous nation on earth.  Sure, lots of us don’t have as much as others, but most of us have more than most people on the planet.  And yet we’re still frail, we could be called for judgment any time.  This night, perhaps, our very life will be demanded of us.  And all that we have, to whom will it belong?

Listen to the last line of the Gospel one more time: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”  So right away the parable is turned around and directed at all of us.  And it wouldn’t be so hard to put that parable in modern terms, would it?  Think of winning the lottery, only to know that the day you receive the check is the day you go home to the Lord.  Or think of spending your days and nights in the office, building wealth and prestige, only to be part of massive layoffs when the company is sold.  Or, even worse, spending your days and nights at the office, only to miss the growing of your family.  So, Jesus asks us, what treasures have we built up?  With what have we filled our barns?

Today’s first reading is from the book of Ecclesiastes, which in Hebrew is Qoheleth, who is the teacher in the book.  Among the Wisdom books in the Scriptures, Ecclesiastes can be the harshest to read because it is almost prophetic in content.  Qoheleth is considered wise among his contemporaries, much like many of the popular wisdom teachers of his day.  While we don’t know who Qoheleth was, the book is attributed to Solomon, the wise king.  Solomon often wrote of the prizes that lay in store for those who were successful.  But this book is a little different.  Here he questions if it is all worth it, and challenges the complacence and dishonesty that run rampant in that society.  If we didn’t know any better, he could well have been writing his words today, couldn’t he?  In the end, though, Qoheleth’s message is basically encouraging, and brings us back to the God who made us.  At the end of his book, which is not part of today’s reading, he says: “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.” (Ecc. 12:13-14)  Which is exactly what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel.

St. Paul has a little bit of Qoheleth in him too, today.  In the letter to the Colossians, which we have been hearing these past few weeks, he is trying to get that community to lay aside earthly things and seek God.  “If you were raised with Christ,” he tells them, “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”  In other words, stop filling your barns with the stuff that you accumulate on this earth, and be rich in what matters to God.  Qoheleth, St. Paul, and Jesus are in complete concert today, and we must be careful to hear their message.

So, let’s get back to Jesus’ instruction at the end of today’s Gospel parable: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”  We have to ask ourselves, then, the very important question: “what is it that matters to God?”  I think we know what doesn’t qualify – St. Paul made that very clear to the Colossians and to us today.  I think the things that matter to God are those things we might count among our blessings: namely our family and friends.  Those things that matter to God might also be the things that make us disciples who are pure, compassionate and truthful.  So we might seek to be rich in prayer, rich in reaching out to the poor and needy, rich in standing up for truth and justice.

Today God is urging us to let go…  Let go of the stuff we think we can’t live without and instead grab hold of what matters most, what matters to God, what will bring us to life eternal.  So what are we stockpiling in our barns?  Maybe we need a look at our checkbooks, our calendars, and our to-do lists to see where our money, time and resources have gone.  Can we take any of that with us if we are called home to God tonight?  If those things are all we have, we could find ourselves in real poverty when we arrive at the pearly gates.  This week’s to-do list might find us letting go of some of what we thought was important, so that we can be rich in what matters to God.  These, brothers and sisters in Christ, are the riches that will not spoil and can never be taken away from us.

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

It has often struck me that, the economy of our nation and the world being as precarious as it is, that being rich in what matters to God is more important than ever.  With all the bad financial news out there, who among us hasn’t had the sinking feeling that this world’s riches are nothing at time but straw?

So you’d think that in this time of uncertainty, and on the brink of a pivotal election, people would be coming to Church, reconnecting with their God, and drawing strength from their faith, building up those riches that are from God.  But you’d be wrong.  All you have to do is look around and see that Mass attendance is nothing like it was in the past, that there are too many empty spaces in the pews.

In some ways it strikes me that we are quickly losing our faith, or even worse, that we as a society are becoming indifferent to faith, seeing it as irrelevant or ultimately meaningless.  At a time in our history when we should be returning to God in droves, people instead are staying away in droves.

And it’s hard to live through uncertain times without faith.  How can we ride the ups and downs of life with anything close to tranquility without the rock that is our faith?  Instead we as a society seem content to look to the government to save us, while we continue to practice unprecedented greed.  And to all of that, God warns us: we may just

The Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Recently in the news, there have been a few stories of people who have hoarded possessions so much as to put them in danger.  In the most recent story, a woman in the Chicago area had passed away, and rescuers needed to cut a hole in her roof in order to remove her from the home.  People like this have an illness with regard to hoarding, of course.  But today’s Liturgy of the Word seems to address the hoarder in all of us.  We are people of means, maybe not the most well-off, but certainly better off than most of the world.  When do we have enough?  When does it all become too much?

Listen to the last line of this morning’s Gospel one more time: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” So right away the parable is turned around and directed at all of us. And it wouldn’t be so hard to put that parable in modern terms, would it? Think of winning the lottery, only to know that the day you receive the check is the day you go home to the Lord. Or think of spending your days and nights in the office, building wealth and prestige, only to be part of massive layoffs when the company is sold. Or, even worse, spending your days and nights at the office, only to miss the growing of your family. So, Jesus asks us, what treasures have we built up? With what have we filled our barns?

Today’s first reading is from the book of Ecclesiastes, which in Hebrew is Qoheleth, who is the teacher in the book. Among the Wisdom books in the Scriptures, Ecclesiastes can be the hardest to read because it is almost prophetic in content. Qoheleth is considered wise among his contemporaries, much like many of the popular wisdom teachers of his day. While we don’t know who Qoheleth was, the book is attributed to Solomon, the wise king.  Solomon often wrote of the prizes that lay in store for those who were successful. But this book is a little different. Here he questions if it is all worth it, and challenges the complacence and dishonesty that run rampant in that society. If we didn’t know any better, he could well have been writing his words today, couldn’t he? In the end, though, Qoheleth’s message is basically encouraging, and brings us back to the God who made us. At the end of his book, which is not part of today’s reading, he says: “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.” (Ecc. 12:13-14) Which is exactly what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel.

St. Paul has a little bit of Qoheleth in him too, today. In the letter to the Colossians, which we have been hearing these past few weeks, he is trying to get that community to lay aside earthly things and seek God. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? “If you were raised with Christ,” he tells them, “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” In other words, stop filling your barns with the stuff that you accumulate on this earth, and be rich in what matters to God. Qoheleth, St. Paul, and Jesus are in complete concert today, and we must be careful to hear their message. St. Paul, typical for him, is very blunt about what he is asking us to lay aside: “Put to death then,” he tells us, “the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” And, “stop lying to one another.” We are called to be disciples who are pure, compassionate and truthful, because absolutely nothing else will lead us to the kingdom of God!

So, let’s get back to Jesus’ instruction at the end of today’s Gospel parable: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” We have to ask ourselves, then, the very important question: “what is it that matters to God?” I think we know what doesn’t qualify – St. Paul made that very clear. I think the things that matter to God are those things we might count among our blessings: namely our family and friends. Those things that matter to God might also be the things that make us disciples who are pure, compassionate and truthful. So we might seek to be rich in prayer, rich in reaching out to the poor and needy, rich in standing up for truth and justice.

Today God is tugging at the heart-strings of the hoarder in all of us.  What are we stockpiling?  Maybe we need a look at our checkbooks, our calendars, and our to-do lists to see where our money, time and resources have gone.  Can we take any of that with us if we are called home to God tonight?  If those things are all we have, we could find ourselves in real poverty when we arrive at the pearly gates.  This week’s to-do list might find us letting go of some of what we thought was important, so that we can be rich in what matters to God.  These, brothers and sisters in Christ, are the riches that will not spoil and can never be taken away from us.