FR. GERALD MUOKA HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: LIFE BEYOND EARTHLY RICHES
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY JULY 31 2022
R1 – Eccl. 1:22:21-23
R2 – Col 3:1-5,9-11
GOSPEL – Luke 12:13-21
When Alexander De Great, after conquering kingdoms, was returning to his country, he fell ill that led him to his deathbed. He gathered his generals and told them, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.”
The king asked his general to abide by these last wishes:
1) The king of Macedon said, “My physicians alone must only carry my coffin.”
2) “I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be filled with the wealth that I collected,” the king said.
3) “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept hanging out of my coffin,” Alexander said.
The generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes and asked him the reason for doing so. Alexander said, “I want the world know the three lessons I have just learnt.” The king interpreted his wishes and continued; “I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor on this earth can really cure anybody. They are helpless in front of death.”
Describing his second wish, the king said: “I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people know that wealth is nothing but dust.” Thirdly, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and I will go empty-handed.”
Beloved in Christ, the readings of today’s liturgy invite us to reflect on the futility and transitory nature of the earthly riches and the need to see the true meaning of life beyond these riches. Hence, we are called to shun greed and avarice; and to use the things of this world prudently without losing our ultimate goal. This is because, only when we make heaven our goal that the full meaning of life would be revealed and realized.
The introit story about Alexander De Great, is a lesson to us regarding the meaningfulness of life beyond earthly possessions. Many of us think that life is all about accumulation of money and wealth. The truth of the matter is that, life worths more than riches and wealth. The meaning of our existence is far beyond money. Because, money cannot guarantee all we need here and hereafter. An author once wrote:
“Money can buy bed but not sleep;
Money can buy books but not brain;
Money can buy food but not appetite;
Money can buy a house but not a home; Money can buy medicine but not health; Money can buy companions but not real friends ;Money can buy marriage but not love; Money can buy anything but not heaven.”
However, the first reading from Ecclesiastes asks what really matters in life. Even the man who has laboured skillfully must leave what he has acquired to someone else who has not toiled for it at all. Pessimistically the wise man wonders: Has he laboured in vain? Does life make sense? Looking at this world the author came up with one main word to describe it: vanity, which in Hebrew connotes ‘vapour’ or ‘a chase after wind’.
In the second reading, St Paul redirects our attention to the heavenly treasures that are perennial and warns that greed for wealth and influence is idolatry.
Whereas, in today’s Gospel, Jesus, narrates the parable of the foolish rich man, which summarily warns us against all types of greed, because greed takes our life’s focus away from God and away from serving and loving Him in Himself and in other people.
*LIFE BEYOND RICHES*
The rich man in today’s parable is tagged a ‘fool’ because of his refusal and inability to live beyond earthly riches. His over-dependence and wanton pursuit of transitory goods, blocked his views from seeing the true meaning of his life beyond riches. The pursuit of wealth and the pleasures of this world have likewise blindfolded many of us from realising that we are mere pilgrims here on earth. By so doing, the rich foolish man lost the true meaning of life and equally lost focus on the essentials of life:
(i) He forgot God and failed to become “rich in what matters to God.” He forgot the truth that God was the real owner of all his possessions and blessings, and he was only God’s steward or manager. Instead, he was focused on himself and was selfish to the core. He liberally used the “aggressively possessive” pronouns “I” (six times) and “my” (five times). He was possessed by his possessions, instead of possessing them. In the process, he evicted God from his heart and never thought to thank God for having blessed him with a rich harvest. He was not thankful to God for His blessings; instead, he considered them as solely the fruit of his own labor. He also failed in his stewardship duties – the returning to God of His portion in paying his tithe. He did not recognize his possessions as on loan from God, given to him to share with others. He was taken up with worries or anxieties about his wealth. He was starving to death spiritually in the midst of God’s abundance.
2) He forgot others in need: As God had been ousted from his heart, that heart became narrow and constricted with no space left for others in it. He also forgot that God had given him everything he had – the land, the good growing season and the excellent harvest – not for himself alone but for all those around him who were in need. Hence, the rich man gave no thought to the poor workers who had labored in his field, nor to his poor relatives, nor to the poor people in his community. The rich man in the parable did not care about others who were suffering. He did not show any regard for the hurting and needy. The rich man was called a fool because he did not consider sharing his wealth. In other words, he left other people out of his possessions.
(iii) He forgot that he was going to die and never saw beyond this world. He forgot that he was going to die, sooner or later. It was as he was planning to build new barns and warehouses to store his wealth, that he heard the words all creatures will hear one day from their Creator: “This night your life will be demanded of you!” He left his soul out of his thoughts and, hence, left eternity out of his plans. This, as Jesus warns us in the parable, is folly.
(1) *WE SHOULD GUARD AGAINST GREED*
God detests greed, because the greedy man only thinks about himself. Aquinas states greed “is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
The tone of the foolish rich man was all about the personal and possessive pronouns, “I” and “My.” The problem of most countries of the world, especially, Africa is greed. We hereby, need to move out of ourselves and start thinking about others.
(2) *WE MUST DEVELOP THE SPIRIT OF GENEROUS SHARING*
Another most important lesson for today’s liturgy is for us to imbibe the culture of generous sharing. Every blessing we receive from God, call it Talent, Treasure or Time, must not be used for our own personal aggrandisement alone, rather must be used generously for the good of others and the entire community around us. St. Gregory the Great taught that when we care for the needs of the poor, we are giving them what is theirs, not ours. We are not just performing works of mercy; we are paying a debt of justice. Life does not consist in possessions but in sharing what we possess with others.
(3) *THE WORLD IS NOT OUR HOME*
Jim Reeves in the lyrics of his song, “This world is not my home
I’m just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue…” reminds us that we are nothing but passing pilgrims from this transient world. Such conscious is drawn by the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy.. This world is simply not our home.
Finally, a story was told about a king of tremendous wealth, who gave his jester a wand, saying “Keep this wand until you find a greater fool than yourself.” The jester laughingly accepted the wand and used it on festive occasions. One day the king lay dying. Calling the jester to his bedside he said, “I am going on a long journey.” “Where to?” asked the jester. “I don’t know.” came the reply. “What provisions have you made for the trip?” the jester asked. The king shrugged his shoulders. “None at all.” “Then” said the jester, “take this.” And placing the wand in the king’s hands, he added, “it belongs to you. You are a greater fool than I.”
Beloved, we become like the foolish rich man whenever we fail to use the earthly riches to garner and prepare for the heavenly treasures.
MAY THE ALMIGHTY GOD GRANT US THE GRACE TO DETACH OURSELVES FROM EVERY WORLDLY TASTES AND VALUES THAT TEND TO DISTRACT OUR SOULS FROM SEEING THE MEANINGFILNESS OF LIFE BEYOND RICHES. AMEN!
*FR GERALD MUOKA*