Our Gospel today from Saint Luke centers around the theme of possessions—both earthly and heavenly. Twice Jesus gives some clear, focused advice: “One’s life does not consist of possessions.” “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” Jesus is clearly speaking about how the material things of this world are to be properly used to enhance our own lives and the lives of others.
Perspective of Jesus. A perusal of the New Testament reveals multiple passages where Jesus expresses his views. “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and termites destroy and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourself in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…. You cannot be the slave of both God and money” (Mt 6:19-21, 24; cf. Lk 12:33-34).
To the rich young man who asked how he could possess eternal life, Jesus responded: “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). Similarly, Jesus tells us: “When you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing” (Mt 6:3). Admittedly, these are some of Jesus’ “hard statements”!
Additional Biblical Insights. The Book of Ecclesiastes (5:9) notes: “He who loves money, never has money enough; he who loves wealth, never has enough profit.” The Psalmist advises (62:10): “Put no trust in extortion, no empty hope in plunder; though riches may increase, keep your heart detached.” Proverbs (23:4) asserts: “Do not weary yourself with getting rich.”
Saint Paul writes to his beloved disciple Timothy: “As long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that. People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions…. The love of money is the root of all evils” (1Tim 6:8-10).
Deeper Reflection. Carefully note that Jesus and the Bible are not asserting that money and material goods are evil. We all need a variety of material goods (food, clothing, shelter) to live a dignified human life. There is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to secure the physical well-being of your own self and your family; actually, it is demanded of us as responsible adults. Our loving God requires it!
Contemporary Challenges. Probably one of the most serious challenges facing many Christians today is “rampant consumerism.” Pope Francis (Evangelli Gaudium 53) has warned against such consumerism; it creates “an economy of exclusion and inequality” among the poor and marginalized. We have created a “throw-away culture” which continues to spread (cf. LS 34). We all must name for ourselves some obstacles in our modern society and life-style that harm us personally and as a people—hampering our entry into the Kingdom of God.
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
18TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
You have blessed me, Lord,
with life and love, faith and hope,
things the world and money
neither know nor can they buy.
May I be content, Jesus, with what
food, clothing and possessions I have.
Grant that these may never own
nor possess me but may I always
be ever mindful of and generous toward
those I meet who have less than I do.
Let me be as generous toward
the poor and less fortunate
as you, Lord God, have been toward me.
May I never be envious of those
who appear to have more than I
for I do not know what crosses or burdens
they bear in secret or what hardships
they endure or wounds they carry.
Lord, I come before you with open hands
that I might receive blessings from you
and through me you might bless others.
Help me Lord to use all I have and am
to advance your kingdom on earth
by lightening the burden of all I meet
that together we might walk toward
the fulfillment of your promises forever.
In your name I pray.
By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.