Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grow rich in what matters to God

1. Jesus told the parable about the wealthy and successful businessman who built bigger barns to hold his abundant harvest. The man was pleased that his possessions were secure and that his future was bright because he had saved sufficiently for the future. But God calls him a fool. Not because he worked hard. Not because he had a harvest. But because he stored up treasure for himself instead of growing rich in what matters to God.
2. No doubt our Lord’s teaching shocked and amazed his listeners. Most of them believed that wealth was a sign that all was right with God. And poverty was a sign that one was in sin. Even if we do not have those thoughts, it seems shocking that God would criticize so strongly someone who had saved for their household’s future. Does that mean we are fools for having retirement accounts or investments for the future? Well no. In other places, Jesus uses investment as a sign of bearing fruit with the gifts we have received. Certainly the Lord wants us to care for our families. At the same time, Jesus taught many times that wealth posed a serious danger. If we grow rich in wealth that does not last but fail to grow rich in what matters to God, we are indeed foolish.
3. But what does matter to God? The man in the parable did not thank God for the abundance he had received, nor did he recognize that God was his primary treasure and the source of all good. Neither did he consult the Lord as to how to properly use what he had gained. He decided to build bigger barns and he congratulated himself on his glorious achievement. The enjoyment of what he thought was his own possessions was his only plan.
4. Many times in Scripture, Jesus grieved over those who did not realize that they needed God and that everything they had, material or spiritual, was a gift from God. Because of this failure to honor God as the source of all things, they actually missed out on receiving even more blessings from the Lord. Their possessions became false gods who cannot create and who cannot save.
5. How do we avoid falling into the same trap and being regarded as fools by God? One thing we must do is learn to thank God. Every time that we are tempted to say “this is my money, or my house, or my phone, or my television, or even my job” we should recall that God has given it to us and that we are stewards of these gifts. A most excellent practice outlined in the Old Testament was the giving of the tithe- that is the ten percent to the Temple. (I know that we are in an economic downturn so I hesitate to mention it, but I put it before you to bring to prayer and ask God about it yourself.) God gives us everything, we return a set percentage to serve Him.
6. Tithing in the Christian sense involves more than money, it includes time and prayer. For many of us, time is even more precious that our funds. Yet God has given time to us also. The man in the parable had no idea that he would die that night. If he had, he might have done something other than think of himself alone. God needs to use your hands to do good: maybe teaching, maybe sitting on a committee and planning, maybe serving in Mass.
7. Prayer time is also a way in which we can give thanks and seek God’s direction in our lives. Lifting our hearts to the Lord helps us to put in proper perspective the other things of life which clamor for our attention. Furthermore, we priests need your prayers so that we can be wise and holy in our ministry. Sometimes it is very difficult.
8. In addition to the tithe, another practice is almsgiving. That is, to share the abundance of what we have received with those in need. The failure to give alms and care for the poor was the principal reason God sent His people Israel into exile in Babylon. Jesus has indicated that caring for the needy will be the definitive test on the day of Judgement. On the other hand, Jesus Christ shares our nature and desires to share an eternity of joy in the home of His Father. Who knows, maybe sharing with others is the reason we have been blessed.
9. And everyone can practice almsgiving. There are children who give their favorite toys to those who have none. There are teenagers who use their own money to buy food for families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Doctors who run a free clinic, businessmen and women who feed the hungry on their day off. Many of you responded to the call to help fund the Saint Vincent de Paul Society or the Food Pantry because they are in need. This sharing, even if it hurts a bit, especially if it hurts a bit, will serve as a sin offering and will build up treasure in heaven.
10. If we remember who gave us all we have, and use these gifts for the greater honor and glory of God and the service of the least ones out of love for Jesus. Then we will not be regarded as fools by God, but rather welcomed as His beloved into home of God the Father.