18th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Putting on the New Self

Jesus lived His life to the full, celebrating each moment, each encounter, and each relationship with joy.   He embraced human experience, drank deeply of human emotions, was nourished and comforted by human love which always led Him from God back to God.   His love for his Father was integrated into all that He said and did and became.   There was no event, no person, no circumstance that ever separated Him from His Father. He knew what Life was all about and He treasured it.

therichfool The Scripture readings for this Sunday are rich in meaning.  The Book of Ecclesiastes is a wise person's reflections on life, reminding us that nothing can survive death - no success, reputation, gain or profit will last beyond a person's lifetime.  To believe otherwise is "vanity of vanities." 

The passage today sobers us up in case we have been intoxicated and distracted by a reliance on what we have achieved on our own.  For most of the folks in this world, life is not fair. Far from it. It is imperfect, limited and oppressive.  Ecclesiastes shakes the comfortableness out of our dreamy, rose-colored illusions and brings us back to reality.

Likewise, the Gospel parable that Luke addresses to us this week is not a very peaceful one, but rather it is a message that makes us extremely uncomfortable - or at least it should.   Only Luke has this parable of the rich fool - the man who doesn't seem to have heard the wisdom of Ecclesiastes about the transitory nature of the things on which we often place trust.

Jesus often uses this kind of intrigue in speaking about the "reign of God".  He uses these parables to help us understand that we will only find true and lasting happiness when we divest ourselves of earthly treasures and invest in the kingdom of God.

Investing on any level is always a risk.  You have to give up something in the hope of obtaining something even more valuable.  We need to look closely at the kind of investment Jesus asks of us.  Before all else, we have to fully understand what "the treasure" really is.  We have to recognize the enduring value of the love of God and neighbor. We have to see how Gospel living can insure our happiness and security. Then - and only then - will we be willing to put aside the vanity of treasures that keeps us from becoming "rich in what matters to God."

The message of Jesus was always one of service to others.  It was always one that put the welfare of the people around him above all else.  He cured the sick, gave sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless.  And he ministered to all people, saints and sinners alike.  He felt comfortable with everyone he met and even forgave his enemies.  He didn't turn his back on anyone.

But what's more important is that every time He called someone to Himself, He immediately followed up by challenging them to action.  Being his follower meant more than just being comfortable within the group. It meant more than just praying for the good of one another. It meant actually working for the good of one another.

Love is not retreating into the past, but walking boldly into the future as Jesus did.  Christianity is not about having all of the answers, but rather about holding up a vision of hope and truth in the face of uncertainty.

Where have we stored our treasure?  Where have we committed our hearts during our journey through life?  Have we sought riches and power and prestige among the very elite of our community?   Or have we cast our lot with the poor, the homeless, the downtrodden and forgotten?   Where is our treasure?

The answer may lie in the message of Paul in today's Second Reading "If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above - "take off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator."

* The Rich Fool - by Eugene Burnand