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Homily for eighteenth Sunday C

02 Aug 2019, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

The rich fool“Vanity of vanity, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanity. All is vanity!” This reminds me of what I once told a close friend. We were together listening to national news on national TV. They showed and talked about the glamorous wedding ceremony of one of the daughters of a wealthy and prominent politician. It was a display of wealth and the who and who in the Country were there. When my friend saw the expensive nature of the ceremony, he turned to me and said, “this is vanity.” I looked at him and, in response, said, “do you know your problem? Your problem is poverty, you don’t have, and you don’t want to celebrate with those who have; we laughed.

Vanity of vanity, the preacher says. Vanity of vanity. All is vanity! This is certainly not a call to see vanity in everything. God’s creation cannot be vanity; he says all his creation is good, not vanity. God is surely not against riches; neither is he against rich people. He blessed Abraham and made him rich; king Solomon became rich because God blessed him; God multiplied everything Job had after they were destroyed. God never changes; he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Unfortunately, it is true that in many parts of the world today, every rich man or woman is considered a ritualist, a cultist in possession of blood money. I do not deny the reality of some devilishly acquired wealth, but that shouldn’t take away our belief that God still blesses the work of our hands to make us rich. Vanity of vanity is not a rejection of riches but a redirection of hope. That is what St. Paul tells us in our second reading today, that Christ died and rose for us; he brought us back to life because we were dead in our sins. So, our minds should be turned towards heavenly things. Our hopes should come from heaven and not on material things, not in our wealth. Material things are not evil in themselves; we enjoy them and not the other way round. We are to possess them and not let them possess us; that is the warning in our gospel passage this morning.

A man came to Jesus to complain about his brother; they were obviously having challenges handling their inheritance. He says to Jesus, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance. The man probably wanted a peaceful settlement, but Jesus’ response may have shocked him. Jesus asked, “who made me a judge or arbitrator of your claims?” This response at first may suggest a lack of concern, but that is certainly not the case. Jesus only wanted the man to know that his life does not depend on that inheritance, that the inheritance he wants to possess is already possessing, dividing their family; it’s creating a problem between him and his brother. We are to inherit our inheritance, and not our inheritance inheriting us. Many have died fighting for an inheritance; inheritance has divided families; brothers and sisters no longer talk to each other because of inheritance. Many build their hopes around material inheritance while they ignore the faith, the true inheritance.

Jesus told them a parable, the parable of the rich fool who had so much and was ready to expand his barns to store more grain and goods. He planned and said to himself, “My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But that night, the demand for his soul was made, and that was all about him.

The rich man trusted in his material wealth, but his wealth could not save him. He failed to look beyond himself and his riches to look up to the mountain from where comes our help. He allowed greed to limit him, to make him think less of life after death. He forgot that he was blessed to bless others, build barns termites cannot destroy, and store his treasures in heaven. Everything was about himself, yet we are warned in the book of proverbs 3:5 to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and never rely on our own insight, our own understanding, and wisdom.

In the garden of Eden, God did not forbid Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life, but from the tree of knowledge, so they don’t feel wiser and smarter than God. No matter how skilled, intelligent, and rich we are, it is the Lord who blesses the work of our hands. The Psalmist says that unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers build (Ps. 127:1). Let God be at the center of all we do, constantly acknowledging his presence and power in our lives. Amen.