Saturday, August 3, 2013

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s first reading is taken from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.The theme of the book is the drudgery of life and its lack of meaning. Though it was written about 2300 years ago, the sentiments are still relevant today. Today’s reading in particular about the passing nature of wealth and possessions sounds as if it were written to describe our current economic crisis.

We spend most of our lives working whether at school, at home or in an office or factory. Much of it can be a burden and a drudgery. Even if we enjoy our work, we see how quickly the money we earn is spent once we pay for gas, insurance, the mortgage and all of the other expenses of life. Any money we do manage to save gets eaten up by inflation or taxes.

Is there any meaning to our work? Is the little money we are able to earn and save worth the effort? Can money really give us the security and the status we think it can?

Today’s gospel reading gives us some insight into this question. Jesus tells the parable of a man who accumulates great wealth and thinks he is set for life. Though he has planned for the future, it turns out that he has already lived his last day on earth. He will die and face his Maker. He thought he was secure. He thought he had everything planned out in advance. But there was something he had not considered. In fact, it turned out to be he most important thing - his immortal soul.

Like the man in Jesus’ parable, all of us will stand before God and give an account of how we have used the gifts he has given us. He will not ask to see our tax returns, our stock portfolio or our real estate holdings. He will not check our credit score or review our bank statements. He will simply ask us if we have loved others as he has loved us. What type of an answer will we be able to give?

All of us hope that when we do eventually die that our families will be provided for. We have life insurance to help cover expenses and a will to ensure that everything we have worked hard for passes over to our loved ones. But have we taken the same care of our souls? Are we prepared to come face to face with God? Have we been so busy accumulating possessions on earth that we have neglected to build a treasure in heaven?

These questions are very important for us to ask ourselves. It is so easy for us to get lost in the monotony of life. We get up, go to work, come home and then repeat the pattern day after day. When we do take time to relax and reflect on our lives, we wonder how the time has passed so quickly. We see our children and society changing, and we wonder when it all happened. In all the running around, we find that we have lost ourselves. What we thought was important - security, status, success - does not seem so valuable to us anymore when we consider what we gave up to achieve them. While we busy ourselves in our work, our family and friends begin to drift away from us, and we find ourselves alone asking the question, “Is it all worth it?”

These questions take on an even greater meaning for the large number of us who have lost our jobs in the past few years. After working so hard for a company for many years, it can be a shock to be let go as if none of our time and dedication mattered. The security we thought we had vanished. The loyalty we showed to our company was not shown back to us. It can leave us feeling empty and bitter.

The good news is that work and possessions are not all there is to life. Through faith, we believe that we are created for something greater - to love and serve God in this life and to enjoy eternal life with Him in the next. We are only passing through this world on a journey to our eternal homeland in heaven. The stock market goes up and down. Companies are created and go out of business. We save money, and we spend it. All these are sources of frustration for us. But they point to a reality that should fill us with hope and joy. As this world is passing away, the Kingdom of God is growing among us. Jesus who is Lord of all is creating a new heaven and a new earth. If all our hope and effort is invested in this world, then we will be sorely disappointed. But if our hope is in God and his Kingdom, then we will be blessed beyond measure. The challenge for us is to live in this world, working and making use of material things, while setting our sights on the Kingdom of God.

What if we worked as hard at impressing others with the holiness of our lives as we do at impressing them with our homes, cars and social status? What if we prayed as hard as we worked? Then we would be able to put up with the drudgery of life and find a meaning and hope that would sustain us whether we have plenty of money or none at all, whether we have good paying jobs or are unemployed or whether the stock market is up or down. We would store up a treasure for ourselves in heaven where inflation and the tax man would be unable to touch it. And our lives would be marked by happiness and pleasure rather than boredom and fatigue because we would be living out the purpose for which we are created - to know. love and serve our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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