18th Sunday of OT C

Rich in the Sight of God

Joke: A man is walking down the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and pops out a genie! The genie says, "Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes." The man says "Great! I always dreamed of this, and I know exactly what I want. First, I want $1 billion in a Swiss bank account." Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with the account numbers appears in his hand! He continues, "Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here." Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red, brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him! He continues, "Finally, I want to be irresistible to women. Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates.

Greedy! In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the crowd and perhaps to each and every one of us saying, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” There is an anonymous saying, “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

In today’s Gospel, St. Luke marvelously repeats the words of a man who came & asked Jesus saying, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” What Jesus replies to the man is, perhaps, also a warning for all of us when he says, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Has Jesus been against the rich? Has he opposed material possessions? Rather, it seems that he’s against those who are greedy! These greedy people, are they poor or rich, smart or not so smart, great mind or dull, energetic or weak, young or not young, male or female, etc.? No matter who they are, if they have a greedy heart, an evil desire, and a twisted mind, they might not possess of who they are and what they are!

It said in today’s 1st reading, taken from the book of Ecclesiastes, a depressed writing rather, “All things are vanity.” A man, “who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,” and to another man, “who has not labored over it, he must leave his property.” It doesn’t matter a wise or a hard working labor, he or she will leave behind what he or she has long to build up for his or her own material possessions! It also seems that being human beings with all weaknesses and limitations, we cannot escape what it said in today’s 1st reading, “Sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” This is also exactly what St. Augustine experienced when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The moment that we reject hardship and difficulty of life, the moment we deny that we are human beings with all weaknesses and limitations.

Story: Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an English Catholic writer, in one of his novels, tells a story of a professor who was given a name Lucifer seating next to a monk with a given name Michael on a flight across the England. When the plane flights across London Cathedral, professor Lucifer sees a cross on the top of the Cathedral. He becomes angry and begins to talk bad about Christian. The monk asks the professor to allow him to tell him a story. I know a person, who hates the cross that wherever he goes, he always tries to destroy the cross that comes to his sight. In all the arts, magazines or anything that has a cross on it, he destroys it. Even a little cross that is hung on his wife’s neck, he takes it and throws it away! He says that cross is a symbol of suffering and death opposites with what is joy and happy life! One day during summer, on his patio enjoying his cigar, he suddenly sees his patio turns into crosses! Everywhere he sees all crosses in front of him, behind him, to the right and to the left. He kicks and slams those crosses! Coming into his house, all he sees are crosses everywhere, everything made out of wood would turn into crosses. From his anger and frustration, he uses fire to destroy those crosses that they found him the next day in a burning house. The conclusion that the author places on the lips of the monk is: “If you begin to destroy the cross, you will not be able to live on this planet!” With the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, it is a symbol of victory. It is a victory of love above hatred. It is a victory over suffering and death. It is a victory over our greed.

This victory, St. Paul encourages us to look upon Christ when he said in today’s 2nd reading, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, not of what is on earth.”  This is also the theme for our Teen Acts Retreat this year. How to seek what is above and not here on earth? He instructs us saying, “Put to death the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying.” Not only that, he continues, we are “Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.” In everything, we are invited to put on Christ, especially when we encounter suffering, challenges, and difficulties. Christ comes from above, but he lowers himself to be like all of us, except sins, so to teach us to attain what is above and not what is below! The questions for us to meditate are: Have we had courage to focus our life, to fix our eyes in the Lord, especially the one who is crucified on the cross? Have we had courage to open up ourselves to accept who we are and to allow the Lord to come into our life to fix what is evil desire; what is greedy; and what is pride? In all that we have, and all that we are, have we ever demanded to possess the Lord Jesus in our life? Remember that Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” What is it that prevents us to possess the Lord Jesus in our life? Isn’t that the evil desire, the hardened heart, the pride or the greed that block our vision to see the Lord, especially to possess in our life? How do we grow rich in the sight of God and his Church? What is greedy for you? Have you ever been greedy?

 

Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen


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