Meaning

18th sunday.001We might say that possessions can sometimes possess us, if we are unaware. The desires of our human hearts are just insatiable. Qoheleth says in our First Reading, VANITY of vanities, all things are vanity! If everything is vanity, if everything is just “wind, vapor, or breath,” or insubstantial, futile, or empty, even meaningless and fleeting, then what holds satisfaction and meaning?

All our human activities, our own accomplishments and achievements, our successes and glory here on earth – what does it make of us?

Sometimes we equate joy with our possessions – whatever they may be. We cling to our wealth, our health, our professions, our titles, our children, our loved ones, and even our lives. We feel good at acquiring, or so we think.

Maybe some of us would sigh, “If only I had a huge money in my bank account, a huge house, a car, new clothes, new bags or a new pair of shoes… or if only I would meet the perfect girl or guy who will marry me… then I shall be happy.” Well, all these are desirable and are not bad in themselves, after all, God wants us to be happy and to enjoy everything that He has given us – material and non-material. But,we must constantly check on our focus, especially on the meaning we attach to the “things” that we possess. It is important that we keep everything in perspective. As in the Second Reading, we are called to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”

While Jesus does not ALWAYS attack wealth, (Jesus had rich friends by the way, some bible scholars say Lazarus, Mary and Martha were some of the rich friends of Jesus), today’s Gospel reflects a consistent theme of our Lord teachings: To just care for our possessions makes it more difficult to truly care for what God cares for. Possessions can distract us from living the fullness of life. Possessions can distract us from the “true wealth” or “greatest treasure,” that which makes us truly rich in what matters to God.

"You'll never get that past security."

Again, Jesus is not warning against money, wealth, or material abundance. Rather, he is warning us against our attitude, our disposition, our desires towards them. How are we using the resources that he has gifted us? He warns us of greed, of the feeling of never having enough.The rich man’s problem is not that his land produced a bountiful harvest, or that he is rich, or that he wants to plan for the future by tearing down his barns to build larger ones. His problem is his perspective. His good fortune has curved his vision so that everything he sees starts and ends with himself. For the rich man, storing up treasure was just for himself. We may notice the many pronouns “I”, “my”, and “myself” in the verses where he spoke (v. 17-19). Therefore, God gave him the correct perspective: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” In Cebuano we have the expression, “Dili man nimo na madala sa langit!” (You can’t bring that to heaven!) when we refer to the things we possess.

In our own lives, our attitude is sometimes like that of the rich man. We claim and reason out that after all, we are not cheating or we did not steal from anybody. We have just worked hard and made money. Sometimes we think we possess our children and our loved ones so that they become unfree and suffocated by our clinging. Sometimes we hold on to our lives as if we are fully entitled to it. We refuse to let go when it is our time to go and we refuse to let others go when it is their time to go.

My friends, I hope today we also learn from the rich man. Everything comes and goes. The rich man went astray by believing that his wealth can secure his future and can make him independent – from others and from God. He forgot the more essential thing: to live life to the fullest in the here and now. It means creating meaning – not just for ourselves but also for others.

So if you knew for certain that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?

18th Sunday Readings {1st Reading: Ecclesiastes   1:2; 2:21-23| Psalm 89:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17| 2nd Reading Colossians  3:1-5, 9-11| Gospel:  Luke  12:13-21}

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Reflection by: Eldie Barrientos

He describes himself as a “missionary of love, fascinated by the magic of life.” He is a Columban student now serving in various ministries of the Our Lady of Remedies – Malate Catholic Church, a Columban parish in the Archdiocese of Manila, Philippines. Please pray for him.

Note: Reflections and homilies on the Sunday Readings are prepared by Columban priests, students, sisters and lay missionaries.

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