Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
I am now living in the 9th decade of my life. I just had to publicly admit that as I continue to chug along although surely not with the alacrity of my 30’s. Age makes realists of us all!
I am coming to believe, however that every segment of the human maturing process has at least one common characteristic: we all seem to long for toys that are related to our age: at 2 months it is the pacifier, at 6 months it is the colorful rings jingling in our crib, at 5 years we long for anything that makes noise, at 12 we can’t wait until we get an I Phone, at 18, another I Phone, only a better one; at 21, it’s the driver’s license and a run down Chevy, at 50, we long for a better paying job; finally at 65 or 70 we say, “Hey, none of this stuff really makes any difference in my life anymore. I just want to retire in peace.” So it goes. We all seem to have this intuitive sense that some material thing will satisfy us, at least for a while, perhaps even forever! Gradually, however, all these passing possessions seem to have less and less attraction; again, it’s all about aging.
I often recall two current axioms that seem to describe the attitude our age: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Another: “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.” Ultimately, both of these phrases are meant to explain away the deeper meaning of life in terms of consumerism.
So, all that begins to pose for us the eternal question, what does it all mean? “What’s it all about, Alphie”? (A popular song of the sixties.) Do material possessions help us understand where we fit in God’s eternal plan of life? Deep down, I suspect we all realize that material things are exactly that… just material stuff, but somehow they still seem to hold a certain mysterious” attractiveness for us until we begin to imagine that they are almost synonymous with life itself.
When we listen to the scriptures for this Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time we will immediately notice some very wise advice from our ancestors in the faith. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, for instance, lays out a rather depressing general principle. “Vanity of vanities,” he writes, “all things are vanity.” In other words, the author insists that nothing in this material world has any value in itself; it only comes to have true meaning if it is thought of as a gift of God. Of course, many of us simply assume that whatever it is we “own” it is part of the world’s gift to us or the result of our personal ingenious efforts. Perhaps the well-known Mr. Donald Trump and his myriad towers today could be thought of as an example of such an attitude. Of course, it is all a great myth that exists only in the mind. We may have it, but we do not truly own it. Indeed, we could lose it in a moment of time. Think of the thousands of lovely homes that were lost in the catastrophic Fort McMurray fire in Canada?
As I write this, a dozen or so people in Central Texas have lost their lives and their property to severe flooding. Folks in Kansas and other states have suffered from tornadoes All these events will tell us that we may have our material possessions and even our lives but only for a while. Remember the famous story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis or the Trump Tower in Manhattan!
In the gospel of Saint Luke for this Sunday Jesus tells the rather humorous story of the rich farmer who ran out of room to store his abundant harvest. “Ah,” he says, “I will just build larger barns and then I can sit back, eat drink, relax and retire.” Then God reminds him that this is a risky venture. “You fool,” God says, “this very night your life may be required of you; then to whom will all this piled-up wealth go?” Good question, one that many of us, whether rich or not so rich, seldom take the time to reflect on or do much about.
There are lots of lessons one could draw from these biblical stories but perhaps the most common one would be the reminder that all life is tenuous, everything in life, our possessions and even life itself are only for a while, a short while; at some point we must leave it all behind as we finally relax in that kingdom Jesus has promised to the truly poor.
The scriptures: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2: 21-23 • Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11 • Luke 12: 13-21
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time