Homily: Storing Up Treasures in Heaven

Posted 2019-08-06 by St. Michael's Communications

Watch Fr. Pilmaiken’s homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019).

Text:

It is said that an English nobleman of tremendous wealth 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 in many festive occasions. When the wealthy man was on his last moments of life, he asked to summon the jester by his bedside. Having the jester as requested, the nobleman said, “I am now on my way to a long journey”. “Where to”, the jester asked. “I don’t know,” the nobleman replied. “What provisions have you made for the trip,” the jester said. “None at all” replied the nobleman. “Take this,” said the jester placing the wand into the nobleman’s hand, “I believe it belongs to you. You are a greater fool than I am”. Indeed, we do make provisions, they are for the future in this life and therefore they are almost in its entirety material provisions. Many of us may focus on the accumulation of material things, and riches, which are useful, but we need to avoid going to the other extreme, a greedy accumulation of earthly possessions. The testimony of great minds and characters in the world, Gandhi, mother Teresa, St Augustine, put into perspective that accumulation don’t bring happiness in itself. Yes, in life we have to make provisions. Planning is every step of the way, especially as Christians, for our journey doesn’t end here on earth with the dead of our material bodies, but it only begins. We can’t call this life home, for it is a journey. We can say that our journey finishes with the demise of the flesh, at the moment of giving up the spirit, and perhaps we can plan and make provisions up until that moment. Although this is true, it is only partial.  A Christian’s journey doesn’t end here with dead. Death is the door which conducts us to our final true journey. Have we made provisions that will guarantee our entrance into our eternal home and will sustain us all through the journey, refreshing our spirits when tired and strengthening our heart so that we may press on to the end?

Many people have found the acquisition of wealth not an end, but only a change of miseries! Secondly, possessions are ours only for a time and so the Bible calls them “vanities” (Eccle 1:2), the original meaning of the word ‘vanity’ being: ‘a gust of wind’. Hence, in the parable we’ve heard today, God says to him, “you fool, this very night your life is being demanded of you” (Lk 12:20). We don’t condemn riches as evil in themselves, but we cannot be blind to the fact that they can be obstacles. A well-known preacher, Fr. D’Souza says: “Riches by their nature enlarge rather than satisfy our appetite; they breed satiety, satiety outrage!” And it goes to the extent that they can enslave our spirits so much so that at one point we are deprived of our freedom to love God and our neighbour. A great fortune can be a blessing, but if not good stewards of it, a great slavery.

Therefore we are called not to become greedy and to cling to our riches and other material possessions as if they are an end in and of themselves, but to use them in such a way that through their use we can acquire spiritual goods as provisions for our spiritual journey towards God. This is what Jesus meant when he warned us “not to store up treasure for ourselves, instead of making ourselves rich in the sight of God” (Lk 12:21). And St Paul repeated it: “let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). A sure way of acquiring provisions for our journey towards God by means of riches is to love and care for one another and to use our riches to promote justice and peace. We don’t have to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, whose wealth is well beyond the international debt of many countries. We, with the means we possess, with the gifts we have, can make the difference in many peoples lives.

Yes; by giving and by giving of ourselves is that we receive, as the Prayer of St Francis says. We are invited to share our blessings with others. Jesus’ parable is a reminder to us that our possessions are merely lent to us by God, and that we are accountable for their use.  We must be generous in sharing our time, our treasure, and our talents, the three elements of Christian stewardship.  Every one of us is rich in one thing or another.  The parable instructs us to share these gifts. Even if we are poor financially, we may be blessed with intelligence, good will, a sense of humor or the ability to encourage, inspire and support others. God expects us to give our thanks to Him for all these blessings by sharing them with others for His glory. By giving we make treasures in heaven and become rich in the sight of God. Whatever we give is not lost but transformed into a treasure of eternity, drawing us forward into the Kingdom. Therefore, if in the past we have been laying up greater importance on material treasure, it is time to change our way. And that is in keeping with what happened at our Baptism: “You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self and you have put on a new self in the image of Christ” (Col 3:9-10). When we die, we are not going to take with us any of our material wealth. In Kenya, some Africans still follow the practice of removing the clothes from the dead before burying them in order to dramatize that we leave the world the same way we came into it. Therefore, what count at death is not how much we accumulated throughout life, but what spiritual treasures we have store up to go to heaven.

Ecclesiastes makes a beautiful prose on the futility of the material things, summarizing our cravings and desires with the word Vanity. Vanity is a capital sin, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is a capital sin, for, although it is a sin in and of itself, it is the beginning of possible greater sins. Vanity can conduct a person to act by pure selfish desire, to the extent to despite one own’s nature and regard other’s nature as purer. Hence, it is important to know and understand that vanity covers an awful lot of other sins that we not be aware of.

However, this reflection is not to think more deeply on the origins and consequences of sin, but to come to know how we are saved by God’s gratuitous grace, and all unfolding mercy and compassion. We as humans acknowledge our corrupted nature, and yet we have to acknowledge more God’s unconditional love and unconditional desire for us to live with him, to become like his son.

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Storing Up Treasures in Heaven, Fr. Pilmaiken Lezano, 04/08/2019, 111.06 KB

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