Most Rev. Robert Coerver, Bishop of Lubbock, delivered the following homily during Mass on Saturday, August 3, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Lubbock.
I think it important for us to situate this weekend’s readings within the context of the previous weekends’ Gospels.
Three weeks ago we heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan – a parable teaching us to put into practice the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as we love our self.
Two weeks ago we had the story of Martha and Mary in which we heard Mary praised for her single-minded attentiveness to Jesus – a story teaching us to put into practice the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with our whole being.
Last weekend we were taught to pray – bringing into conversation with God the reality of our earthly life and its ups and down, its joys and sorrows.
Today’s readings might best be summarized by a phrase from our Second Reading, in which Saint Paul tells the Colossians, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
Paul is telling all of us Christians, as people baptized into Christ, who “...is all and in all.” That we need to be careful not to become too earthbound, too focused on the things of this world and this life.
And instead, to keep our perspective on a much greater good, on things that really matter to God, which will lead us to eternal happiness rather than mere earthly pleasure.
To help illustrate this point, the Church has chosen today’s first reading from the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes, also known as Qoheleth, “Vanity of vanities . . . All things are vanity!”
The word translated as “vanity,” literally mean “breath” or “vapor.”
For the author of Ecclesiastes, all of life is transient and empty – like our breath on a cold, winter morning, or the vapor rising from a whistling teapot— POOF and it’s gone!
Worldly concerns and worldly things will vanish like that— POOF! And they are gone! Don’t forget the POOF!
Then we have a challenging, yet sublime, teaching in the Gospel—a teaching which concretizes for us the danger of POOF!
We see greed played out in today’s gospel with the rich man who finds himself with such a bountiful harvest he cannot possibly use it all. Instead of sharing this bounty with others or putting it to some good use, he decides to tear down his current barn to build an even bigger one to hold the excess.
The rich man thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?”
The very phrasing of the question shows the consequences of forgetting that land and crops are divine gifts. The man has lost the sense of stewardship that flows from remembering that all is gift. He has forgotten the Jewish wisdom that the goods of the earth are meant to meet the needs of all, not simply the desires of those who happen to manage the land.
This landowner speaks too easily of “my crops.” For him, the unexpected abundance is not a boon for the community— rather, it presents a crisis of personal assets management. The rich man appears to be concerned only with himself and his possessions and seems to have no concern for anyone else. He claims what he has been given for himself only, strategizing how to best preserve all his possessions.
In the Fourth Century Saint Basil the Great explained this parable, “But what do we find in this man? “A bitter disposition, hatred of other people, unwillingness to give. “This is the return he made to his Benefactor. “He forgot that we all share the same nature; he felt no obligation to distribute his surplus to the needy.
“His barns were full to bursting point, but still his miserly heart was not satisfied. “Year by year he increased his wealth, always adding new crops to the old. “The result was a hopeless impasse -- greed would not permit him to part with anything he possessed, and yet because he had so much there was no place to store his latest harvest.
“You are the servant of the good God, a steward on behalf of your fellow servants. “Do not imagine that everything has been provided for your own stomach. “Take decisions regarding your property as though it belonged to another.”
The parable teaches us, reminds us in our day, to cultivate a lifestyle of riches that matter to God. What matters to God are riches of the heart, manifested in care and concern for others.
Jesus came to teach us wisdom of heart. In sharing what we have been given with others, justice, right relationship, and love dominate our lives—Love lasts.
Work done for love of the Lord lasts. The Lord himself is ever-lasting. If what you want is God, what you want will last.
In her book, Little Women, Louisa Mae Alcott writes, “Love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the end so easy.”
Once there was a cartoon in the newspaper of an elderly man on his deathbed. The man was extremely wealthy and was surrounded by servants, family members, lawyers, a priest, and a few other associates—it was obvious why most of the people had gathered there.
Rather than looking as if he was soon to meet his maker, the old gentleman was sitting up with his arms folded and a very determined look on his face. One bystander was saying to another, “Someone just told him he couldn’t take it with him, and so he says he’s not going.”
As we gather here, now, we are about the work of seeing what is above. As we give to God the praise and glory, which are due to God in this act of worship. God has given back to us the challenging Word we have just heard and pondered.
As we prepare to offer nothing less than Jesus, the Son of God, back to the Father, let us also offer the gift of ourselves, and in doing so beg for the grace we need to “seek what is above.” And the Father will give back to us the Son, in his Body and Blood.
Let us go forth from here to become what we receive here—Jesus within us, shared as gift to others.