Sunday, August 08, 2010

Homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Here is my homily for last Sunday, August 1st.

This is one of those gospel passages that can really puzzle us if we don’t understand what is happening. Here is a man who comes to Jesus with a real problem. His brother is trying to make off with most of the inheritance. He asks Jesus to step in and arbitrate, to get his brother to give him his share. Yet Jesus refuses to do so. Instead he tells a parable about a man who is so busy searching out wealth and luxury that he dies without having had any regard for what comes after this life. In essence, Jesus is telling this man: don’t be so concerned with this life that you end up taking your eye off the prize, the gift of eternal life in heaven. How true this is and the readings today are chocked full of reminders.

We hear in the first reading how pointless and vain it is to work so hard without any thought for our soul or for our salvation. In the psalm we prayed that God give us wisdom to realize that this world is passing and that we need to be attentive to God’s voice to show us what is really worth working for, what labors of ours truly bear lasting fruit. In the gospel we hear how the man in the parable spent so much time working that he did not prepare his soul for death and all his earthly treasure went to others.

Jesus reminds us that it is important to be rich in what matters to God, and in the second reading, St. Paul reminds us what that prize is that is truly worth working toward. He tells us to keep our eye on the prize of our life in Christ, not only that life in Christ that we already possess even now, but that future life of glory that we will live with Christ after death. Paul reminds us that we are to be busy at putting an end to the reign of sin in our lives and to seek Christ as our all. In no way does this mean we shouldn’t work for the things of this earth. We don’t hear the author of Ecclesiastes, St. Paul, or Jesus condemning our earthly work. Instead they are simply reminding us that the good things of this world are not the end all and be all of our lives. Instead, the prize is our life with God, our victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus, our becoming saints with the help of the Holy Spirit.

There once was a young man from a wealthy and influential family, whose father owned a prominent newspaper firm. Despite his father’s financial success this young man was more interested in helping the poor than he was at securing his inheritance or making a name for himself in politics and business. He deeply loved Christ, went to mass daily and prayed the rosary three times a day. Yet his devotion and faith did not stop him from continuing his studies, going on hiking trips with friends and looking to better the plight of the poor with social activism. One cold night, when he returned home without his coat, his frugal father scolded him for having given it to a poor old man. The young man replied “But you see, father, it was cold.” This young man’s name was Pier Giorgio Frassati, who Pope John Paul II beatified and called a man of the beatitudes. Upon Pier Giorgio’s death the greatest outpouring of love was not from the social elite that his family knew and not from his circle of friends, but rather from the poor of Turin, who had no idea that Pier Giorgio was even from such an influential family. Blessed Pier Giorgio understood that it is necessary for us to keep our eyes on the prize, that living for Christ and for others, becoming saints, is more important than riches and wealth.

Not all of us are called to the kind of charity practiced by Blessed Pier Giorgio, especially since not many of us come from rich and influential families. However, like Blessed Pier Giorgio, we are all called to keep our focus on Christ, our eyes on the prize of eternal life. This may seem a bit difficult today, but it is not impossible. Today we live in a society that values work and recreation. We work so that we can afford the pleasures of television, movies, vacations, sports. After the recreation, we go back to work. Yet all too often we can get trapped in the idea that we work so as to afford recreation and do recreation in order to take a break from work. In the midst of this pendulum between the toil of work and the pleasure of recreation we can easily loose sight of why we are here in the first place.

One way we can keep our eye on the prize and not forget that our life in Christ is what is most valuable is for us to plan out time for a retreat. This doesn’t have to mean going off for a few days to a monastery to pray, though if we did that it certainly wouldn’t hurt. However, going on retreat, taking some time to be silent and pray can be as simple as scheduling an evening where the tv, computers, cell-phones and video games are turned off and the family can gather for the rosary or for reading a passage of the gospel and sharing one’s reflections on it. Or ‘a retreat’ could be as simple as scheduling one day in the midst of vacation for silent prayer, or for visiting a holy site, like a monastery, a shrine, or a basilica. For those who like to travel on their vacations, the idea of taking time for a retreat could be as simple as arranging to go some place on pilgrimage instead of simply touring. No matter what for our retreat may take, it can be for us the perfect opportunity to take inventory in our lives, to see where we are going, how we are living, if we are truly happy, and for us to not take our eyes off the prize of the life that God calls us to live in Christ. May the Lord give you Peace.

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