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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17 (95:8)
Colossians 3:1-5, 9, 11
Luke 12:13-21
August 4, 2019

We hear that “someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.

We are not told the person’s name.  The person is only identified as “someone.”  We have no idea who it is.  Many people who come to Jesus are never identified by name but they are generally identified as disciples or as a Pharisee or other title.  In this case, the person is only identified as “someone.”  They may not even have been a believer.  “Someone” could be us. 

Looking at the words of the person, note that they are not in the form of a request.  It’s worded in the form of an order.  Do you tell Jesus what to do?  Are you this “someone”?

What is their request about?  Apparently, a person has died and the speaker’s brother is keeping the inheritance to themselves.  Sadly, even today, I hear and have seen families break apart over inheritance.

Why do people fight over “inheritance”?

Sometimes it can involve sentimental reasons.  Maybe there was that special platter mom used to serve food at all the family gatherings.  In monetary terms the platter may not be worth much but it comes with memories that are priceless.  Yet, fighting with family over it would seem to miss the value of the memories of the family gatherings where it was used.

More often, divisions over inheritance are because of greed.  It might be over money itself or it might be over possessions that have significant monetary value.  If it’s about monetary or monetary value it can involve “greed” and that’s one of the seven deadly sins.

I want to note that it’s not always about “greed.”  Sometimes, we just want our fair share.  Sometimes, there’s someone in the family who has lost a job and could really use the money.  That’s need.

That’s not what Jesus is talking about when He says, “to guard against all greed” and “one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  

If we need it, it’s not greed.  The question is how much do we need compared to what we want.  Even then, are we just seeking a little enjoyment or are our wants extravagant? 

To help us realize that life is not about possessions Jesus offers the parable about this “rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.”  The harvest is so great that it won’t fit in his barns.  We assume his barns are already designed to be big enough to hold as much as he needs.  He has plenty, even for times when the harvest might not be so good.

So, what does he do?  Does he show generous by sharing the harvest with others who don’t have so much? 

No.  He is determined to keep it for himself.  So, he decides to tear down the barns and “build larger ones.”  One might suppose, he is storing up for the future.  In this sense, we talk about retirement planning and/or saving for one’s children’s college fund.  These are smart things to do but how much do you really need to save?

After all, why build up more than you need?  Ecclesiastes speaks of the person who labors greatly to build up wealth only to leave it to a stranger.  As Ecclesiastes says, “For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun.

Why do some people want so much?  Is it greed?  Again, that’s one of the seven deadly sins.  Maybe it is to make ourselves look good.  That’s “pride”, another of the seven deadly sins.

(The next two paragraphs were added Sunday morning following shootings in Texas and Ohio Saturday)

If greed and/or pride out are what motivate us, then our desires are selfish.  Yesterday morning there was a shooting in El Paso, Texas at a Walmart with at least 20 dead and several more injured.  Last night there was a shooting in Ohio with at least nine dead with more injuries.

They are just beginning the investigations so we don’t know motives yet.  So, I can’t sure what we could do to have stopped these particular shootings.  I wish I had the answers to stop shootings in general.  I don’t have specific answers but I can’t help but think that if we turn away from selfish desires, from greed and pride, and be concerned for others, things could get better.

What are we to do?  Paul calls us to “seek what is above…Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  Does this mean we can completely forget about earthly things?  No, the reality is that we need food and a place to life. 

The point is that the possessions should not be the focal point of our lives.  How many people work hard, thinking if they get one more promotion, one more pay raise, that they will have enough.  Then, when they get that, they find they need more.  How much is enough?

The problem when we think possessions will make us happy forever is that they can’t.  Possessions are not what we are created for.  Some possessions are necessary.  Some do make earthly life more enjoyable but they can never completely fulfill us because they are not what we are created for.  We are created to know and his love.

I end with a quote from St. Augustine’s Confessions as he prayed to God, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

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