By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the Gospel
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When Possessions Become Obsessions

Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 Luke 12:13-21

A preacher notices a woman in the congregation who begins to weep as soon as he begins to preach. Thinking he has made a big catch he preaches with even greater fervour. The more he preaches, the more the woman cries. Finally, the preaching over, it is time to give testimonies. The preacher points to the woman and says, “Sister, I can see you were mightily moved as we proclaimed the word of God. Now can you please share with us what it was that convicted your spirit so much.” The woman hesitates, but the pastor insists so she comes up and takes the microphone. “You see,” she begins, “Last year I lost my he-goat, the most precious thing I possessed. I prayed and cried much over it and then I forgot all about it. But as soon as you came out to preach and I saw your beard, it reminded me all over again of the he-goat. I still cry whenever I remember it.” She did not remember one word of what the preacher said.

Possessions are necessary for life. But possessions can assume such an importance in one’s life that they become obsessions. When one is so consumed with the things that one could have, so much so that one no longer hears the urgent call of God, then one has indeed got one’s priorities all mixed up. Such is the man in today’s gospel who asks Jesus to come and make his brother give him his share of the family inheritance. Jesus is not against him having more wealth, nor is he against justice being done between the man and his brother. Jesus is rather disappointed that after listening to all his preaching, the first concern of this man still remains his share of the inheritance. This man is in the same position as the woman who has brooding over her lost goat while the words of life were falling on deaf ears. Like the woman, this man also could probably not remember one word of what the preacher said.

Jesus, fearing there could be more people in the crowd like this man, turns and says to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Greed? What greed? The man was only asking for justice to be done between him and his brother. Shouldn’t a man of God be concerned about fairness? O, yes. Jesus warns us that greed comes in different guises, even in the guise of justice. Have you ever heard a respectable man opposing plans to improve conditions for welfare recipients: “I’ve worked and paid taxes all my life. How can the government spend my money on welfare recipients who do nothing but sit down and do drugs everyday?” Sounds like an argument for justice and fairness. But it could indeed be greed in disguise. That is why Jesus warns us and emphasises it: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” Greed can be upfront or subtle, conscious or unconscious. We must be on our guard against greed in all its forms.

To illustrate his point Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. When you read the parable you ask yourself, “What wrong did this man do?” Think about it. The man did his honest work on his farmland. The land gave a good harvest, as expected. The man decided do build a larger storage for the crop so that he could live the rest of his life on Easy Street. Except he did not know that the rest of his life was less than twenty-four hours. Jesus uses him as an illustration of greed even though he took nobody’s money. He did not do something wrong. His greed lies in what he did not do. Sir Fred Catherwood is quoted as saying that greed is “the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard.” Now you see why the rich man qualifies as an example of greed. Now you see why Jesus was so hard on greed. Greed is the worship of another god. The name of that god is Mammon or Money or Materialism. Today’s gospel invites us to believe in the God of Jesus Christ who alone can give eternal life and not in the god of this world who gives us the false promise of immortality through accumulation of possessions.

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