Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 4

Rembrant rich foolCentral Meaning: Our true wealth is God not in greed. Doctrine: Legitimate wealth. Practical Application: Examining our economic activity.

For the Lectionary 114 readings, click here.

Central Meaning: Our true wealth is God not in greed

Reading 1 Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23

  • Vain means empty.
  • If you only work to become prosperous for your own benefit, this work—with all the effort and anxiety that goes into it—becomes empty, because you will leave what you have accomplished behind at death.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.

  • We may think our life is long but it is not. Death is at hand, and with it judgment. This is why we need wisdom to do the right thing during the days of our lives.
  • We do need to work in this life, so we pray, “Prosper the work of our hands!”
  • Even more than work and prosperity, we need to be in a right relationship with God and to enjoy his blessings, “that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.”
  • But can prosperity alone cause us daily joy? No. Prosperity without God does not bring lasting happiness. Money can’t buy it.
  • Prosperity with God does mean earthly happiness. Poverty with God does also.

Reading 2 Col 3:1-5, 9-11

  • St. Paul contrasts the old self and the new self.
  • The old self is the son of Adam, formed under the influence of Original Sin, from which flows all the kinds of sins Paul enumerated. The new self is the son or daughter of God in Christ, who is being renewed in the image of God.
  • St. Paul says we can take off that old self and its practices, and begin putting it to death. In the same way, we can put on the new self and its practices.
  • St. Paul reiterates the radical equality and universal calling of human beings renewed in Christ. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what your earthly condition is: the Faith is for you.
  • But we bring yourself to Christ to be remade, not for him to tell us that our old sins are okay.
  • Our work and economic activities are dimensions of our lives which must also be remade under Christ.

Gospel Lk 12:13-21

  • Everyone wants to be rich, to have secure possession of every good thing. That is the paradise Adam and Eve were expelled from (and that we would like to go back to if we could) and it is the heaven we hope for.
  • Greed is the vice in which one attempts to amass material goods so one can have this paradise on earth.
  • The rich man in the parable had this view. While it was a poor idea of happiness, it appealed to people who didn’t have enough to eat and who had to work hard every day. Imagine taking a vacation for many years in which you “rest, eat, drink, be merry”!
  • But since nothing on earth is actually secure and all will be left behind at death, true wealth consists in being rich in what matters to God.
  • What matters to God is, of course, summed up in the two great commands, to love God and neighbor.
  • How different things would have been if the rich man had reasoned in himself, “Now that the Almighty has blessed me with so much, how can I thank him and do good for others?”
  • St. Paul’s “putting on the new man” and Our Lord’s “Being rich in what matters to God” amount to the same thing: Being transformed in Christ.

Doctrine: Legitimate Wealth

  • Wealth has a positive value (CSDC[1] 174). It is a way people can have access to the material and even spiritual goods of creation. For example, children and young people can only devote the first twenty or even thirty years of their lives to being educated when there is sufficient surplus wealth that they are not required to work to earn their daily bread. Or, unless the farmer can produce enough food to feed the scientist, the scientist cannot devote time to devising ways for the farmer to grow more food.
  • Material wealth provides the opportunity to fulfill Christ’s command to give to the poor (CSDC 184).
  • Work is the source of a decent life or even riches, although neither is the basis of happiness: That belongs to God. (CSDC 257)
  • Wealth is to be put to work to benefit others and should not be hoarded (CSDC 282).
  • The development of the earth so as to free human beings, especially the poorest, from all forms of misery, is a Gospel mandate (CSDC 325).
  • Working, trading, starting a new business, being an entrepreneur, making a profit, innovating—these are all good. (CSDC 336 ff.)
  • Economic activity has a moral dimension which includes concern for shareholders, mangers, workers, customers, the development of society in general, the common good, and the environment. (CSDC 336 ff.)

Practical Application: Examining our economic activity

  • Do we pray for all who find their work hard? Those without work, those with insufficient work, those whose work is very burdensome, those whose work is without adequate reward, those whose work is dehumanizing.
  • Can we can rededicate ourselves to our work? To do a very good job, to serve others, to provide something of value, and to offer up that effort to God.
  • Is everything in our work ethical?
  • Can we do something new? To start a new enterprise to benefit my family, community, and the common good.
  • How do we use and consume goods? Do we have a consumerist mentality in which the greatest good is to have things?

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[1] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

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