Tuesday, August 06, 2013

4 August 2013 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st reading: Ecclesiastes 1.2; 2.21-23
Psalm 49:1-12
2nd reading: Colossians 3.1-5, 9-11
Gospel: Luke 12.13-21

Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.  The first reading emphasises what we hear in our Eucharistic prayer, and that is, “Everything we have, everything we see, everything we do, everyone we love and everyone who loves us” is a revelation of God’s sustaining presence and our total dependence on God’s creative Spirit alive in the universe. 

When we look at things from this perspective, to paraphrase a few words from Fr. Ken, work is no longer something exacted of me, toil grudgingly given; our work can flow freely, as a thankful response for the great gift of life.  Those in AA call this an attitude of gratitude.  With an attitude of gratitude, we become less concerned with whether others are doing their share or whether others are getting the kudos we think we deserve.  With an attitude of gratitude, we know in our hearts that any glory really belongs─ not others, or to us, but─ to God.  Likewise, after we have done all that is asked of us, we become content to leave the outcome of our efforts in the Hands of God.  We shed our vanity and find peace.

If our hearts and minds are at peace, there is more room for the Christ Light of love within us to grow.   Since love and spitefulness cannot live in the same heart, things such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language, die within us.  We become less tempted by greed and the need for accumulating money, power and things.

George Carlin seems an unlikely contributor to a homily but his take on possessions and their accumulation seem so relevant to today’s Gospel.  Carlin said, “A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.  You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane.  You look down; you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff.   And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up.  Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff.   That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!   Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

The Gospel is telling us that the accumulation of all this stuff is fruitless endeavour.  It is of no use to us when we die and as the young man seeking Jesus’ help shows, it can bring conflict to those we leave behind. 

My grandmother lived through the depression.  Like some others of her generation, this left her with a fear of scarcity.  She hoarded stuff and money.  She couldn’t afford a bigger apartment; but each year the space to move around in the apartment got smaller and smaller.  At the end there was just a narrow path from the kitchen of her railroad flat to the living room.  The living room and kitchen still had gathering space and sitting room, but it too, was in jeopardy of disappearing.  When I was trying to clear out the place after she died, I found such beautiful treasures.  They had been there all through my childhood but I had never seen them.  She had never taken them out herself and enjoyed them.  These beautiful things just kept getting shoved further and further back, in whatever cupboard, to make room for more things.

For me the moral, so to speak, of the Gospel and my grandmother’s story is gratitude, generosity and sharing.  I should be thankful and content with what I have.  God has given me many gifts and I should be generous with those gifts and share what I have with others: my time, my gifts, and my stuff.   I see opportunities to share as opportunities to keep our gifts from becoming treasures shoved to the back of the dark cupboard of ingratitude. 

Some of us brought up in a tradition that promotes the idea of indulgences and heavenly rewards may think of the accumulation of good deeds as an insurance policy on a blissful eternity.   But this too, is not the point of the Gospel.  If the intentions for our good deeds are again, personal gain, this too is vanity.  As an example of right intentions, I close with an adaptation of the prayer written by Rabia of Basri, one of the first female Sufi poets:  “O God! If I share your gifts and do good for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I share your gifts and do good in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I share your gifts and do good for love of You, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.’  Amen!
What are your thoughts?  Please share.


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