July 31 Homily (Feast Of St. Ignatius Of Loyola)
Readings: Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23 Col 3:1-5, 9-11 Lk 12:13-21
“Guard against all Greed”
Today’s first reading is in danger of being misunderstood. “All is vanity,” nothing but hot air! What? Is this Scripture, the holy Word of God?
We live in a world full of sorrows but we try to respond hopefully to people who say they find no meaning in life, people who are broken, people in despair. We come to Mass to find reasons to live with hope and love. And here we are told, “All is vanity! What profit do we have from our labor?”
This biblical preacher Qoheleth may shock us, but he does not want to discourage us. He does not want us to think that everything is for the best in the best of all worlds. He is not content with passing things. He looks for what lasts beyond this life. His anguish is something we can sometimes share. He makes a passionate appeal not to be taken in by false advertising or suspicious news or empty promises.
And that is what Jesus also warns us about in today’s gospel. He avoids getting involved in a dispute about inheritance, but raises the conversation to another level about earthly goods. “Take care to guard against all greed,” he says. Though we may be well off for now, our life does not consist in how much we have.
The rich man in the parable thinks he has it all made. He says, “Eat, drink, and be merry for years to come.” But he dies suddenly that very night. What he has put aside will go to others, and they will fight about who gets what. “Thus will it be,” Jesus says, “for all who store up treasures for themselves—but are not rich in what matters to God.”
We note that the rich man was thinking only of himself: “I do not have space to store my harvest. … I shall build larger barns and store all my grain … and I shall say to myself: eat, drink, and be merry.” There is no thought of making even some of that grain available to people who need it more than he ever will. He is “not rich in what matters to God.” What matters to God is that all God’s children may work together to share the good things of this earth, our common home.
Today we celebrate the feast of our parish’s patron St Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius was converted from a very self-centered, worldly person, to a person who lived with and for Jesus and did all he could to bring people to Jesus. The story goes that he kept pestering one of his college roommates named Francis Xavier with the words of Jesus: “What profit is there in gaining the whole world if you end up losing your own soul?” Xavier was an athletic youth some 15 years younger than Ignatius. He was eager to get ahead and make a name for himself. But he heard the voice of the Lord calling to him through Ignatius and became the great apostle of Asia. He became “rich in what matters to God.”
Surely, we ourselves need to realize that we live in a wealthy consumer society. We must struggle uphill so as not to surrender to the lust for gain that surrounds us, constantly urging us to acquire better and newer goods.
When we hear the gospel proclaim “Take care to guard against all greed,” it is easy to think of others “out there,” rather than take care that we ourselves do not to become like that rich man who stored up everything for himself without any thought for others. His story has been given to us so that we may avoid falling into the same trap.
In a sermon on today’s gospel, St Augustine says: “[The rich man] was planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting, proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor, which could be much better storerooms than his barns. How will he know where to look when he hears the Lord say, ‘I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat’?”
St Paul, too, in the second reading urges us to set our hearts on Christ and “seek what is above”—that is to say, seek to have Christ’s sense of values regarding how we use the goods of this world and how we answer to the needs of others.
Fr. Robert Chiesa SJ