Wealth and economic activity – The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Work is the source of a decent life or even riches, although neither is the basis of happiness: That belongs to God.

Work is the source of a decent life or even riches, although neither is the basis of happiness: That belongs to God.

Central idea: Our true wealth is God, not a life of greed. Doctrine: Uses of wealth. Practical Application: Examining our economic activity.

To view Lectionary 114, click here.

Central idea: Our true wealth is God, not a life of greed

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

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property.
This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity.

  • 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, and the fruit of those labors—becomes empty, because you will leave what you have accomplished behind at death.
  • Our Lord underlined this “vanity” in his parable of the rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

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

R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.

You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.

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.
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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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 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 happiness. Possessions without true values is vanity.
  • But with God, with being “rich in what matters to God” as Our Lord will say, both prosperity and poverty can mean earthly happiness and lead to eternal happiness.

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

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

  • Paul contrasts the old self and the new self.
  • The old self is the son of Adam, formed under the influence of Original Sin, due to which we may choose all the kinds of sins Paul enumerated.
    • We choose them because they seem to be ways to happiness.
  • The new self is the son or daughter of God in Christ, who is being renewed in the image of God.
  • Paul says we can take off that old self with its practices, and put it to death or at least begin putting it to death. In the same way, we can put on the new self and its practices.
    • We die to sin and live for holiness by cooperating with the graces Christ offers us in the Sacraments.
  • Paul reiterates the universal nature 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 you bring yourself to Christ to be remade, not for him to tell you that your old sins are okay.
  • Our work and our economic activities are important dimensions of our lives which also must be remade under Christ.

Alleluia Mt 5:3

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

  • Our readings raise and answer important questions. Why do the poor in spirit get the Kingdom of God, that is, Christ and everything in Christ? When do they get it? How does one become poor in spirit so as to participate in the Kingdom of heaven?

Gospel Lk 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”

  • 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 or covetousness[1] is the vice in which one attempts to amass material goods, motivated by the false belief that this is what will secure paradise on earth.
  • The rich man in the parable had this view, and while it was a very reduced view of happiness, it certainly appealed to people who often didn’t have enough to eat and who had to toil every day. Imagine taking a vacation for many years in which you “rest, eat, drink, be merry”! Imagine a vacation from “all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.”
  • 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 summed up in the two great commands: to love God and neighbor.
  • How different it would be if the rich man had reasoned in himself, “Now that God has blessed me with so much, how can I thank him and do good for others?”
  • 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: Uses of Wealth

  • Wealth has a positive value (CSDC[2] 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.
    • Unless the farmer can produce enough food to feed the botanist, the chemist, and the engineer, these cannot devote their time to devising ways for the farmer to grow more food.
  • Material wealth gives one a chance to fulfill Christ’s command to give to the poor (CSDC 184). The widow gave her mite, everyone can give tithes, and the wealthy can build shelters, hospitals, schools.
  • Work is the source of a decent life or even riches, although neither is the basis of lasting 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

  • We can 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.
  • We can rededicate ourselves to our work: To doing a very good job, to serving others, to providing something of value, and to offering up that effort to God.
  • We can examine our work in terms of whether everything under our control is ethical.
  • We can ask if we can do something completely new: For example, to start a new enterprise to benefit one’s family, community, and the common good.
  • We can examine our own use and consumption of goods: Do we have a consumerist mentality in which the greatest good is to have things?

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.)

The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • CCC 661, 1042-1050, 1821: hope for a new heaven and a new earth
  • CCC 2535-2540, 2547, 2728: the disorder of covetousness

[1] CCC 2535-2540, 2547, 2728.

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

One Response to “Wealth and economic activity – The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time”

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  1. Augustine D'Souza says:

    Really wonderful points. Easy to remember and make my own points for preaching. Thank you so much for this help. Praise the Lord. God bless!

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