Our possessions can possess us

August 4, 2019 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the Book of Ecclesiastes (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.

From the Letter of Paul to the Colossians (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.

 From the Gospel of Luke (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.”

HOMILY

According to the study of OXFAM International, an independent non-governmental organizations, one in three persons lives in poverty[1] and in their 2018 report on the Word’s wealth, Oxfam found that the richest 1% people in the world have 82% of the world’s wealth. Moreover, Oxfam also reported that the 26 wealthiest people in the world possessed 1.4 trillion USD and this is just equivalent to the wealth of the 3.8 billion poorest people in the world.[2]

The world has so much wealth and resources for all of us but then only few are possessing them. To possess material wealth is not in itself evil. Material wealth is God’s gift to us. However, material wealth becomes a problem if we would allow this to possess us. We might believe that to possess so much wealth will give us security and joy.

However, this is not the case because the more we possess things, the more we also become insecure and anxious. Just observe ourselves. The more a person possess wealth, the more the person also becomes defensive. High walls are built to protect a rich house, sometimes with electric current running 24/7 on barb wires and with a 24-hour security personnel. And when the person becomes unaware of his/her unquenchable desire to possess more, then the heart turns greedy and insecure, and even corrupt and oppressive.

Our readings this Sunday have something to tell us. The Lord invites us to examine our attitudes towards our material wealth, the resources that we have gained and received, and the riches that we possessed. Even though we may not be part of that 1% wealthiest people in the world, but then, the possessions that we have may have already possessed us. This may prevent us from being grateful to the source of blessings and generous to those who are in need. Let us explore then our readings and see how God unfolds his invitations for us today.

The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that what we possess now and our worldly achievements could not guarantee satisfaction to our desires. Qohelet says, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” Indeed, everything will be in vain when we become too focused on material possessions and when our heart becomes materialistic. With this attitude, we will lose the essential things in life and that include our relationships.

This is the reason why Jesus warns us of our tendency to be greedy. Greed comes from a heart that believes in self-containment and self-satisfaction and that desires total independence from God. But then, material things could never quench our greatest desire to be satisfied and fulfilled. Thus, a person will tend to accumulate more and possess more even at the expense of others.

This is how the cycle of corruption and oppression happen. When our desire becomes unsatisfiable, we become greedy of many things, who will tend to collect as many material things and wealth us much as possible.

Such attitude will not just appear in our heart out of nowhere. Sometimes, this has something to do from our childhood memories. A child who has been deprived from many things particularly of essential things in the child’s development such us food, shelter, toys and clothing and even affection and love from parents may become a form of emptiness in the heart of a child. When the child becomes adult, that kind of experience could give the person the anxiety to be deprived again. Hence, in order to gratify such anxiety the person could become a hoarder who accumulate things and possessions.

When this happens too, a hoarder or a greedy person is blinded to see the needs of others. It will be difficult for the person to open up and be generous to those who are in need around him or her because the person feesl insecure every time he or she gives.  The person would only look at his/herself and never to others. This is now an attitude of the heart that is truly being possessed by possessions.

Thus, Jesus said, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Jesus tells us that our life is more than our possessions. Consequently, St. Paul in the second reading calls us “to put to death parts of us that are earthly.” These are attitudes that are driven by greed.

Be mindful, then, of our possessive attitudes because these may affect and endanger our relationships with our families, friends and colleagues.

We may ask, what is it that possessed me? What are those that kept me from being free? We do not have to think of millions of pesos because even a single smartphone may possess us. Remember, when we put so much focus and attention to a material thing, it could make us indifferent, ungenerous and unkind towards others. Our attachment to a single smartphone may indeed, prevent us from giving more time, attention and focus towards our studies (for the students), or may prevent us from giving our affection and presence to our loved ones.

We believe that what gives us true satisfaction, freedom, joy and contentment is a life with God. Thus, Jesus calls today to have a life with Him and to let go of whatever that possessed us because this is the way of making ourselves free for Jesus. Then, by being free for Jesus, we shall be able to let ourselves be satisfied truly by the Lord himself. And in response, our self-satisfaction from the Lord will lead us to recognize that everything we have is God’s blessing that must be shared to others. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR


[1] https://www.oxfam.org/en/about)

[2] https://time.com/5508393/global-wealth-inequality-widens-oxfam/

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A Dose of God Today

A-Dose-of-God-Today : Your Daily Spiritual Nourishment, tries to put into words the thoughts and experiences of the wonder of life through the Holy Scriptures and the many invitations of God today.

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