#RichTowardGod is the Podcast for July 31, 2016. How can one be rich toward God? That is what Jesus tells us we should do in answer to our desire to store up riches. All three readings for this Sunday come together. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #GetRich #Inheritance #Quoholeth #Ecclesiastes #Colossians #Luke #MommasWisdom #Anselm #FrPereJaquesHamel #BigHeart
Rich Toward God: Luke 12:12-21
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/31/2016 The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, Colossians 3:1-11, and Luke 12:13-21.
It is not often that you have a Sunday where the three readings outside of the Psalm, just coalesce into one message. This Sunday, is one of those Sundays. I am going to start with the Gospel, because the Gospel is read with honor, procession, singing “alleluia”, bowing, etc. because they are the words and actions of Jesus Christ. Jesus, he is the culmination and key to understanding all Scripture. So, we will start there.
Here we have in the 12th Chapter of Luke, this great parable about Americans and the Western way of life: get rich, amass stuff to show you are rich, put it all in storage, and then leave it all behind for family members to fight over who gets how much of your stuff. Isn’t that the point? Don’t we all want to have our families fight over our stuff that we cannot enjoy in the grave?
Seriously, the parable has someone coming to Jesus to be the arbiter of an inheritance. Let me give you the short version, “Lord, make sure I get my fair share.” Yet, in the end, Jesus gives a parable about a person who amasses wealth, so much that he has decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. That night, God takes his life and Jesus leaves us with this nugget, “So it is with those who store up for themselves but are not rich toward God.” What does that mean, “to be rich toward God?”
Quoholeth, the great teacher from Ecclesiastes, he could see this long before Luke was written or Jesus walked the earth. He said, “it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with…” Quoholeth says, 1. No matter how much we toil, it is for someone else, who probably is an idiot anyway. Who hasn’t worked for a shortsighted idiot who lacked mercy? And, 2. Even if we throw up our hands in despair, all we work for is left to someone else to enjoy, or fight over.
Many of you who listen, or are spiritual direction clients of My Spiritual Advisor, have remarked to me that you love my mother’s wisdom. It is because my 83 year old mother has some of the greatest little quips that sum the whole thing. I think I can riff on them for a moment:
“If you have to play games, don’t play by someone else’s rules.”
“What goes around, comes around.”
“What goes through your head doesn’t have to come out of your mouth.”
“Sometimes, you just need to sit down and shut up.”
“What do I care? I am going to die soon.”
“Don’t get me anything to put in my apartment. I am 83.”
She often will say that last thing when we ask her what she wants for her birthday, Christmas, or Mothers Day. My mom, who raised 9 children on her own, who has given away more of what she earned than anyone I know, doesn’t have need. So, she gives her time to God through service in her church. She reflects on her life and tries to apologize for the things she has done to hurt others. She seeks to change her life and stretch her mind to keep sharp. Sometimes, when someone comes over and notices something pretty in her house, which is really a small apartment, she will say, “Take it. I want to see you enjoy it while I am still here.”
Why would I bring this up? Because we have this question, “how does one act richly toward God?” St. Anselm says that, “God is greater than that which can be thought.” We know from Genesis that God speaks and what he wants is created. The Lord has no needs. He mocks those who think he needs to have sacrifices or temples built in his honor. I love that about our Lord. Even when David wanted to honor him with how we all want to be honored, with naming rights to a building, stadium, or temple, the Lord God has no need of such things. They are vanity of vanities, a chasing after the wind.
This past week, we were all stunned by the killing of Fr. Pere Jaques Hamel, the 84 year old priest who had his throat slit by followers of ISIS in France. I think that when ISIS comes to blow up our shrines, our temples, our pilgrimages that we have built to honor the Lord, they are going to find out the shocking thing that most people who come to kill us Christians find out: our faith is not in things. Our faith is in a person. Our value is not in an icon that represents God. Oh, sure, we honor that stuff, but if someone came and burned it up, blew it up, threw it out, we would possibly be sad, but that would in no way cause us to lose our faith. Our faith is not in what we can build. Our desire is not in that with which we surround ourselves. Our heart, our soul, our lives are and always will be through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, giving glory to God the Father Almighty, forever and ever. Their killing is vanity of vanities, a chasing after the wind.
Our faith is in the relationships we have with God, with one another, and with the creation that the Father planned through the Son and sustains in the Holy Spirit. The relationships are what are important to the Lord. He desires mercy, a disposition toward one another, not sacrifice, which is why He Himself, like no other God or religion, is the sacrifice. He honors Himself for us. So, how do we act richly toward God?
We act richly toward God by doing what St. Paul tells the Church at Colossae to do. Listen:
So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient…
795 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat to live an active life. 3.1 million children will die this year because of lack of food. (World Food Program). 780 million people in the world will not have access to clean water. (United Nations). Between 2001 and 2012 between 6 and 7,000 people died in the Iraq war. In the United States in 2014, nearly 12,000 people died in a domestic violence dispute. (Huffington Post, 2/2015). In 2012, it is reported that nearly 70% of persons in the United States experience a high level of stress due to money and work concerns. (American Psychological Association).
If you do not think there is enough money for us to help others in the world, support churches, and fund evangelists, then why do we have a TV show that has many iterations called, “Storage Wars”? The show is dedicated to people buying unclaimed possessions in one of the nearly 3,000 storage facilities in the United States. The industry makes over $3 billion dollars in revenue every year. (SpareFoot, trade mag. of the Storage Industry).
We know what it means to act richly toward God: it is to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8). None of these things have anything to do with storage, distribution of inheritance, etc. All of that stuff, is stuff, and to chase after it is vanity of vanities! The way to be rich toward God has been, is, and always will be in the way we behave in our relationships. Do we care about the welfare of the other? Do we care about God, about his people, about his creation? Do our actions show that we do?
So, the better side of this is that for you to be a success, to be rich, to be amazing in the eyes of God, you already have all that you need. You don’t need a bigger house, bigger car, or bigger stuff. All you need is a bigger heart. Thanks be to God. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian