YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Someone said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’” (Luke 12:13, 15)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 12:13-21
“Having had hearing problems for a number of years, an elderly gentleman went to the doctor, who had him fitted for hearing aids that allowed him to hear better than ever. The old man returned to the doctor one month later for an evaluation of his new hearing aids, and the doctor said, ‘Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.’ The gentleman replied, ‘Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!’” (Original source unknown)
In the gospel passage we hear today, “Someone said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’” (Luke 12:13) In reply, Jesus strongly cautions not only the man standing before him but also all of those who are overly concerned about earthly possessions. “Jesus said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’” (Luke 12:15) By God’s grace, I shared in an experience some years back in which an inheritance was passed on, a morning on which I witnessed a father pass on to his youngest daughter his most prized possession.
Mark, the Jewish Chaplain at our hospital and my professional colleague, had invited our entire Pastoral Care Department to attend the Bat Mitzvah of his daughter, Bella, when Bella would be recognized as having attained and demonstrated the maturity and knowledge needed to participate as an adult member of the Jewish community. This had required many years of Hebrew study and religious education. It would be the first time she would read from the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. This is the highest honor a Jewish person can receive.
Early on a June morning, we dozen chaplains gathered at Temple Beth El in Troy, NY, to celebrate with Bella. Though I felt an oddity entering a synagogue dressed in clerical attire, the welcome I received was warm. Placing a yarmulke on my head like all the other males present, I slid into a pew beside my hospital colleagues, all of us Gentiles trying our best to be inconspicuous.
As the service progressed and I grew more comfortable, I felt transported back almost a generation. The Bat Mitzvah service was mostly in Hebrew, and there were several processions in which the sacred Torah was carried through the congregation as people reached out to touch and kiss it. It was not so unlike attending Mass in Latin in pre-Vatican II days. In both instances, I understood little except that at this special moment I was an awestruck participant in the meeting of heaven and earth.
Near the end of the ceremony, after Bella had read her chosen portion from the Torah and offered, in English, a commentary on its significance for her life as a 21st century teenager, Mark ascended the lectern and, standing beside her, addressed her in words both tender and forceful. As he spoke about the primacy of the Word of God in his own life, he prayed that his youngest daughter would find in this same sacred treasure the sustenance that her dad had drawn from it throughout his life.
His prepared text faded into garble, though, when tears began to flow from his eyes; words just could not express the power of the moment. Father and daughter gave up on words as they embraced in a tight hug, rocking back and forth right in front of the Sacred Ark wherein rested the Holy Torah. Indeed, heaven and earth here met, a father passing on to his beloved daughter his most cherished possession.