[caption id="attachment_2336" align="aligncenter" width="508"] Bishop Barry Wood OMI with Refugees during a Retreat at Mariannhill (26-27 July 2012).[/caption] This was the first time the Refugee Pastoral Care arranged a retreat...
From one point of view
TODAY’S PSALM [90 or 89] could appear to be at odds with the OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ECCLESIASTES 1: 2. 2:21 – 23]. The Psalm prays: “let the favour of the Lord be upon us; give success to the work of our hands. O give success to the work of our hands.” On the other hand Ecclesiastes seems to liken such a focus as “vanity and a great evil.”
However, it is the Psalm itself which gives us the anchor to take a holistic view and see things more realistically. We are told:
“teach us to number our days, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” In addition it is the teaching of Jesus himself as recorded in TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 12: 13 – 21] which, so to speak, hits the nail on the head: “take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Of course, most of us will remember that these words were not mere passing remarks of the Lord but is a constant in the Gospel. For example, it is prevalent in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus, teaching with authority, counsels us to “put away anxious thoughts” about material matters and tells us that “no servant can be the slave of two masters.”
(See Matthew Chapter 6)
We should, now, be able to bring the basic themes of today’s scriptures together in a sensible, valuable and holistic manner. At once it will be valuable for us to bear in mind some recent words of Pope Francis:
“we must be alert to new forms of poverty resulting from a comfortable lifestyle.” The word alert is of real importance. We may well be awake and able to get out of bed in the morning but we must also be ALERT to the reality of the world around us. To be alert means that we are watchful, vigilant, and ready to take action – ready to take action in the real worldas it is and not as we, often fancifully, wish it was.
Today’s Gospel speaks of the rich man whose land produced abundantly and all he thought of was where he would store his additional prosperity. His solution was to build new and bigger barns. This, indeed, is the vanity spoken of in our extract from Ecclesiastes. The man was concerned solely with how he could secure his accumulation of wealth. He was not alert to anything other than his own ego.
However, it is not only the very rich and the ruthless pursuit of ambition which is in contradiction to a proper, watchful and vigilant Gospel attention to the realities of the world around us. A comfortable lifestyle can also engender within us a selfishness which makes us over protective of what we do have. This results in a tendency to be parsimonious and hesitant (a lack of alertness) in our watchful vigilance of the
needs of the world in which we live. Our outreach and availability to others become guarded and measured. In reality this is a fear of ‘missing out’ on some of the little comforts to which we have grown accustomed.
Here we are able to reflect on what Saint Paul is teaching in
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [COLOSSIANS 3: 1 – 5. 9 – 11]. We must also “seek the things that are above.” This was completely lacking in the landowner of today’s Gospel. If we have a ” life (that) is hidden in Christ” we must ensure that we are also alert to this truth and fact of faith. In this area we have also to be watchful and vigilant. We have to develop a genuine balance between our material and faith pursuits and ambitions. Too often our faith pursuits are compromised and take second place. In reality the challenge of the Gospel is to make them FIRST! In the extract (quoted earlier) from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us to “set your mind on God’s kingdom … before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well.”
There is a clear order of precedence if the life hidden in Christ which we possess is to become visible, tangible and effective within the context of our own immediate world.