Catholic homily outline for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – The wealth of wisdom

Paul Cezanne "Young Man and Skull" (1898)

Paul Cezanne “Young Man and Skull” (1898)

Central idea: True wealth and how to attain it. Doctrine: The danger of and the need for wealth. Practical application: Corporal and spiritual works of justice and mercy.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 143, click here.

Central idea: True wealth and how to attain it.

Reading 1Wis 7:7-11

I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne,
and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,
nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;
because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,
and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
Yet all good things together came to me in her company,
and countless riches at her hands.

  • Everyone wants to be rich, to have every good thing securely. This is natural for us and right. It is what Adam had in the garden and what we are promised in heaven.
  • The questions for us, in this life, are what actually constitutes riches and how do we gain them?
  • The actual treasure in this life is wisdom, that is, knowing what is really good and then choosing according to that light. Wisdom is gotten by asking God for it.
  • The paradoxical experience of the author of the Book of Wisdom is that in asking for wisdom—like Solomon did—“all good things together came to me in her company,
    and countless riches at her hands.”
  • We should compare this claim to Jesus’ promise to his disciples who choose him over worldly goods: “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us,
for the years when we saw evil.

Let your work be seen by your servants
and your glory by their children;
and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!

  • In the Lord’s Prayer, we petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
    • God knows we have many needs and wants. He wants us to ask him to fill them. He also wants us to work to fill them for ourselves and others.
    • So we ask, “Prosper the work of our hands for us!”
  • But what we need the most is to experience God’s love and to have the gift of his wisdom. Then we will be contented, happy, and even filled with joy.

Reading 2 Heb 4:12-13

Brothers and sisters:
Indeed the word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow,
and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.

  • When we ask for wisdom—which is a very wise thing to do—whether we know it or not we are really asking for Our Lord, the Word of God.
  • We see an example of how the words of Christ are like a two-edged sword in the case of the rich man. Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter with him when he invited him to sell off his riches, to give the proceeds to the poor, and then to follow him. Suddenly his desire for eternal life was not that strong.

Alleluia Mt 5:3

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • Why are the poor in spirit blessed such that the kingdom of heaven will belong to them?
    • They know it is impossible for them, by their own power, to secure the good things they long for. And so, they are open to turning to the one who can secure these good things for them. That one is God.

Gospel Mk 10:17-30

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother
.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
Peter began to say to him,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

  • God alone is good. Or, as wise philosophers would say, God is goodness himself. And All things are possible for God. That is, he is omnipotent.
    • The rich man ran up to Jesus in excitement but walked away from him sad. Because he was rich, he was used to people going out of their way to be agreeable to him and to agree with him.
  • The apostles were “amazed” and “exceedingly astonished” that rich people, who had it made here on earth, did not also have it made in heaven.
    • Maybe the rich man shared this attitude as well. Perhaps he was expecting double congratulations from Our Lord: first for being rich and second for being faithful to the commandments.
  • Jesus loved the rich man. Not because he was rich. Not even, I think, because he had kept all the commandments from his youth. (And we have to ask, did he really keep all these commands from his youth? Our Lord had just said, “No one is good but God alone.” When Our Lord said, “You are lacking one thing,” was he being a little ironic?) I think Jesus loved him because he is God who is good. That is why he loves us, too: because he is good.
  • All things are possible for God. It is impossible for a man to save himself by what he does on his own. But it is possible for God to save a man. And God invites the man’s cooperation. Thus, Our Lord’s invitation to the rich man.
  • With God’s grace and our own freedom, we can be generous, as the rich man, sadly, was not, but which the disciples, happily, were.
  • This is why we offer back to God every morning (and renew throughout the day) everything we have been given.

Doctrine: The danger and the need for wealth

  • The wealth we must beware of includes not only money and property, but anything that people esteem here on earth—such as fame or power—including even beneficial things like “science, technology, and art.” Contrary to what we naturally assume, happiness is not found in wealth but “in God alone, the source of every good and of all love.” (CCC 1723)
  • Because wealth-promising-happiness is so alluring, we are forbidden to be greedy, avaricious or covetous. One reason is that these acts betray that we believe that wealth (not God) is our greatest good. Another reason is that they can lead us into injustice against our neighbor (CCC 2536).
  • Nevertheless, the Church encourages us to acquire some measure of wealth. As the Catechism says, “Love for the poor is . . . one of the motives for the duty of working so as to ‘be able to give to those in need.’” Since the needs of the poor extend “not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty,” the treasures we gain (if we can) through our work, includes cultural and religious wealth. (CCC 2444)
    • The teacher can give her knowledge, the writer his stories, the artist his paintings or sculptures, the musician her music.
  • Every form of human “misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon himself and identified himself with the least of his brethren.” This is why “those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church” and why her members never cease “to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere.” (CCC 2448).

Practical application: Corporal and spiritual works of justice and mercy

  • If you are a little child growing up, your work is to play. A child’s play is often preparation for some kind of service, such as a girl’s playing with dolls or a boy’s playing army.
  • If you are a student in school, or an adult in some kind of training program, your work now is a preparation for later service.
  • If you are in the world of work, your work is already some kind of service, filling some need.
  • Work is also a means of acquiring or even creating some form of wealth, which then can benefit those in need.
  • So for most of us, the dynamic of our lives is work so as to be able to offer service.
  • How good it is to comprehend in the presence of God the opportunity we have to serve the needs of others right now in our ordinary activities.
  • And then how good it is to “come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities” through the traditional or any other works of spiritual or corporal mercy (CCC 2447).
  • Then it is just a matter of finding something one can do and doing it. And then do another thing and another.
  • When we gratefully recognize “that all that we have is a gift from the Lord, we respond with generosity by sharing those gifts with others” (Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Ars crescendi in Dei gratia: A Pastoral Letter On Building a Culture of Growth in the Church (14 September 2015)
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