VANITY OF MATERIAL RICHES WITHOUT DIVINE REACH: HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (c) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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Once upon a time, I attended a heart-rending burial of a friend’s father and mother who together died in a car accident in a certain town in the eastern part of Nigeria. It was my first time of being in that part of the country though I have heard stories about numerous wealthy people in the area. As soon as we drove into the town I began to see lots and lots of beautiful houses with large compounds properly ornamented with luscious flowers and lovely lights. In fact at a point I had to stop at one particular house that seemed to be more beautiful than others. Actually, looking at this very mansion one would imagine being in one of those highbrow counties in the US. One of the persons travelling with me was conversant with the town and told me that the house USED to belong to one popular man who had a business conglomerate but who was unfortunately a victim of one of the plane crashes that happened in the country.

When I learnt that the owner of the gargantuan and awe striking mansion before me had died, my mood changed from admiration to pity. The person who was giving me the information went on to say that the man’s family had since been going through series of crises on account of the man’s properties and investments in Nigeria and overseas even to the extent that one of his brothers contending for some of the man’s properties died mysteriously in his sleep. As we drove off I kept wondering about the state of mind of the man when he was acquiring all the material riches and I wondered if he also acquired spiritual riches that would help him to REACH GOD.

Today can be called “VANITY SUNDAY” because from the words of the Preacher in the first reading (Eccls. 1:2; 2:21-23) through the words of St. Paul in the second reading (Col.3: 1-5.9-11) to the gospel reading (Luke 12:13-21), there is a common denominator: “the vanity of earthly possessions and the value of eternal (heavenly) treasures”. The preacher in the first reading captured the issue very vividly when he said that sometimes a man who has toiled with wisdom, knowledge and skill MUST LEAVE ALL to someone who did not toil for it. This for the preacher is vanity.

In the gospel reading the issue becomes more dramatic with our Lord Jesus Christ’s answer to a man who asked him to tell his brother to divide the inheritance they had in common. One very interesting thing about Jesus Christ is that he answers not just your question but also the intention or disposition behind the question and after asking the man “who made me judge and divider over you?” He went on to advise the people to beware of ALL COVETEOUSNESS (GREED) for a man’s LIFE DOES NOT CONSISTS in the ABUNDANCE of his POSSESSIONS. He went further to make the point more lucid as he would always do using the parable of the rich fool.

In the parable, a rich man’s land brought forth abundant harvest. This is an indication of two things divine blessing and human effort. God was gracious to him and he was also hard working. This confirms the words of the Psalmist who said “you shall eat the fruit of your labour” (Psalm 128:2). After receiving the blessings of God the rich man did not remember that there was need to thank God and to share the blessings of God to others. Instead of asking: “HOW CAN I REPAY THE LORD FOR HIS GOODNESS TO ME?” (Psalm 116:12) he instead asked “WHAT SHALL I DO WITH THESE CROPS?” If he asked the first question it would have led him to thanksgiving and charity to other, but following the second question he expanded his barn to make room to store more grains and goods but then that was the end because he had to die that night leaving all that to the living who did not toil for them.

There is one disease that is terribly troubling a lot of people in the world; that disease is SELFISHNESS. It is a disease that is so evasive that it produces a lot of other vices as it seeks to satisfy oneself to the detriment of others. Excessive materialism is a product of selfishness as well as greed, covetousness and apathy. Today many people are not only rich but they are working very hard to become richer and even to be the richest. Every year Forbes gives the world the list of the mega rich people in the world and from the list they would also establish the richest person in the world. As these mega rich people compete annually on who would be the richest on Forbes’ list, more than 150 million people around the world to go bed every day hungry (most of them children); yet the net worth of the billionaires in the world would be enough to stamp out poverty perpetually as it is in the tune of trillions.

The problem in the world is not that there is scarcity of food and money but the simple fact that many people are selfishly hoarding them just like the rich fool in the parable. It all begins in our bedroom, kitchens and store rooms. How many shoes and clothes do you have? If you can’t count them then you are having more than you need. Can you remember how many times you have to throw away spoilt food and other edibles? That could have been someone’s dinner!. Most people rename the hoarding syndrome in them into being COLLECTORS.”I collect shoes, wrist watches, gold, diamond” Etc. But what happens to these when eventually you are no longer alive. In the prayer our Lord taught us he encouraged us to ask for today but it is unfortunate that many people are not asking but striving after the sustenance for years to come.

The problem in our world I still maintain is selfishness; our inability to think of and consider others and not knowing that seeds are at their best when they are sown in God and in our neighbours. Imagine on the one hand how many people that march in and out of restaurants, bars, club houses, markets, malls and big shops on daily basis and spend so much money buying what they already have or what they really don’t need and on the other hand how many people go to the Churches and Orphanages to thank God and to help the needful children. The hard but honest fact is that there is alarming poverty in the world today because many rich people are hoarding the blessings they have received from God.  

Do we still have people playing the role of the rich fool in our day and age? The answer can be found in the things happening around us. The only pastoral instruction that remains here is for us to be attentive to the fact that nothing really lasts in this world. Everything will surely pass away except the eternal word of God that will be there to judge us (Luke.21:33). Attentive to this we should seek first the eternal values not earthly riches (Matt. 6:33).This is necessary because our attachment to worldly things would finally and eternally detach us of from God and His Kingdom (Mark 8:36).

Do have a blissful Sunday. Be thankful to God and share his blessings to others do not hoard them!

Fr. Bonnie.

2 Comments on “VANITY OF MATERIAL RICHES WITHOUT DIVINE REACH: HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (c) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

  1. Great. Another question comes to mind…’where do you keep all I(God) gave you”? In What kind of safe? Wooden,golden,silver? They are natural resources, earthly and human.Have you considered storing them in human souls and hearts that you will meet in this world and in the next? So that when you stand up there, you will have so many around carrying all your wealth but now tranformed.Pack them there, so that they can carry them and come over.
    These have so many practical implications…GOD SAVE US

  2. May God lay his healing hands on us and cure us of our disease of selfishness, Amen.

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