18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
July 31 – August 1, 2010
Holy Cross Parish – Hutchinson, KS
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
“But God said to him ‘You fool! This very night your life shall be required of you. To whom will all this piled-up wealth of yours go?’ That is the way it works with the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God.”
“For what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? …Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth.”
I am sure that there are places in the world where you could preach on today’s readings and if you did a good job people would be stung to the heart and there are such places in the world, places that need a good sermon on this topic. By way of illustration let me mention the news stories of the week about the 6 figure salaries the municipal government authorities of Bell, California were paying themselves. My guess is that Hutchinson and Holy Cross is not one of those places where you find that kind of greed or desperate will to get ahead. Correct me if I am wrong.
No doubt hereabouts a wealthy farmer or landowner like the rich man in the Gospel would be the exception. Not many of us have the wealth or will strive to pile up wealth with the goal thereby not to have to worry about tomorrow. Most folks I know simply work hard for the good of their families; they may even set things up, if they can, such that their spouse and underage children can live decently should they die young or precede them in death; they dream maybe of leaving a little something behind for the children; they have no illusions about limitless material wealth as a sign of ultimate success. In my almost 60 years now of life I guess I have never met anyone personally for whom having an MTV “crib” like some hip-hopper or basketball star might be considered their dream. If it should really be otherwise here or if you really think that material security is the be-all and the end-all, well then, Jesus’ words do apply: you fool! Let’s presume that money is not your trap and let’s go to our Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians for a thought or two to take us through the Lord’s Day!
Although I am willing to believe that nobody here might be so foolish as to work only for this-worldly material security, I will nevertheless insist that few of us here are so saintly or God-like perfect as not to need the exhortation to the Colossians from our apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles, a verbal challenge which has lost none of its relevance with the passage of time.
“Since you have been raised up in company with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God’s right hand… Christ is everything in all of you.”
What does it mean to say about the average person, the average Catholic lay man or lay woman: “Your life is hidden now with Christ in God”? St. Paul explains all this to the Colossians and to us by describing our life as baptized people as being part of or belonging to a process, and this really thanks to our baptism and growing up in the Church: a process which involves an effort on our part to root out of our nature those things which are of earth. Earthly is anything bound up with a wayward heart or tied to dishonesty/lying. Cleaning up our act, casting sin out of our lives, enables us to grow in knowledge and be formed anew in the image of our Creator: our dignity as the only creatures made by God in His own image and likeness advances with our cooperation. It is God’s work in us, but we have a part to play in putting our old self aside and putting on the new man, who is Christ in you.
They tell us that one of the pitfalls of our secular age is a tendency to privatize religion. Older Catholics often take the sharp criticism of the Catholic Faith so common today in the newspapers and on television as a simple return to the anti-Catholicism typical of the America of their youth. In point of fact it is more than that. Indeed times have changed and we are facing more than a bias or an ignorant prejudice today. The secular creed, which has so much of society in its grasp, tolerates no other voices in the public square. While there are reasons to criticize some people in authority in the Church for leading double lives, for mishandling certain cases and denying their responsibility first and foremost for those who are defenseless and poor, what we’re talking about is a refusal to acknowledge good when it happens and to recognize or try to understand constructive efforts to put things right. Pope Benedict XVI does not deserve the kind of press he gets; mainstream media attack him because he speaks so eloquently for the truth, for an agenda which is not that of secularism.
I bring this up, simply as a way of encouraging you to critical thinking. CBS/NBC/ABC/BBC/Public Broadcasting or whatever cannot dispense us from the Commandments or from the Precepts of the Church. Nobody on talk radio can dispense us from the traditional duties of our state in life as taught by the Church over the centuries. Secularism might want a slimmer and healthier you, but it does not understand with St. Paul that binding yourself to Christ is more important and more urgent. You need to be busy about putting off your old self, turning away from sin, using both Holy Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to grow in that knowledge which you need to renew the image of God within you. There are people who spend interminable amounts of time looking up things on the web. If they gave 10% of that time each day to a prayerful reading of a brief passage from the Gospels or from St. Paul, or if they would take time to scour the index of the Catechism and then read an article with real authority, as opposed to Wikipedia, we would be on the road to the kind of transformation to which St. Paul and with him the Lord Jesus calls us. We’d be happier, for sure.
I don’t need to ask when was your last good confession; I think you know that regular, devotional confession (something easily available to you here in the parish, thanks to Father Joe) should be a part of your life. The word devotional means that you don’t have to be guilty of mortal sin or serious faults to go to confession; it is enough to confess venial sins and to admit your faults and failings. The word regular certainly means a good four times a year, with every change of season, or even better on a monthly basis. Regular, devotional confession may not be the same as spiritual direction but it certainly is or can be for any ordinary Catholic that catalyst you need not only to think and grow (through your examination of conscience and honest admission of sins and failings), but also it can go a very long way toward helping you to underline the sincerity of your personal choice to live out your baptism.
“After all, you have died! Your life is hidden now with Christ in God. When Christ our life appears, then you shall appear with him in glory.”
Why? Tell me, why would anyone want to seek elsewhere life, joy, fullness, security, happiness, peace, or any value worthy of your human dignity? We used to sing quite frequently at Communion time in church: “Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All.” Take the steps to make those words ring true… Don’t be a fool!