Theme – Become Rich in the Sight of God
My dear friends in Christ, the Readings of this Sunday challenge us to have a new perspective on the world and the way we use material goods. Our new world-view must be hinged on Christ.
The first Reading taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes presents a pessimistic view of life and our human toil. It stated that it is vanity and great injustice “that a man who has laboured wisely, skillfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all”. (Eccl 2:21). This perspective will be right for Epicureans who consider pleasure as the most important good in life and espouse the view that the world gravitates around them rather than they being part of God’s creation entrusted with the task of continuing the creative work of God until everything finds its fulfilment in God through Christ, and God becomes all in all. (Gen 1:28, Cor 15:28).
As Christians we believe that there is dignity in labour and that human life has a purpose which can only be realised in Christ. We read from the second Reading, taken from the letter of St Paul to the Colossians, that “since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thought be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3). Here we are invited to see material things as a stepping stone or a means to an end and not as an end in themselves.
This brings us to the Gospel story where a wealthy man who had had a good harvest decided to pull down his old barns and build bigger ones to accommodate his grains and goods. He then said to his soul, “My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” This story is neither against being rich, nor business expansion nor planning for retirement. It is not against your superannuation! Every prudent person must plan for their retirement. What the story is attacking is hoarding goods. It is against a culture that deifies and worships wealth, where human dignity is based on how wealthy one is rather than humanity being created in God’s image. (Gn 1:26-27). It criticises a selfish and egocentric culture where people do not think of the needs of others.
The rich man in the story failed to realise that it was by God’s grace that he became rich and hence needed to lift some less fortunate people in the society from poverty. He should have reinvested some of his wealth back into the community by sponsoring programmes and activities that would help the homeless and other people at the margins of the society. He could have either started an education foundation which builds schools, and gives scholarships to children from disadvantaged families, or a medical foundation which builds standard clinics and hospitals in less privileged communities, and funds research into chronic diseases. He could also have established community finances which would lend money to people living in poverty, who have little or no collateral, with a minimum or no interest being charged. He could have drilled for water in communities where drinking water is a luxury.
We become rich in the sight of God by watching each other’s back and standing shoulder to shoulder with people in need.
I commend all those who have set up foundations to help the needy or have advanced researches into chronic illnesses. The Lord smiles at your generosities. Your efforts shall not be in vain!
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp