Monday October 17, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 4:20-25) Gospel (St. Luke 12:13-21)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that we have to guard against all forms of greed. Now this is an American problem. Obviously, it is a human problem, but an American one in a very specific way because there is so much materialism all around us and what we tend to do as Americans is to judge ourselves according to others by how much we have. That really is the wrong thing. It is an interesting point because it is actually one of the Planned Parenthood ways of trying to present things: If you have a number of children, you are only going to have a little bit of stuff and you are going to be poor and isn’t this going to be a rotten way to live; but if you only have one or two kids, you are going to have lots of money and you will have more material things and then life will be a whole lot easier for you. Well, it is interesting that in Scripture children are considered to be the riches and the blessing that God has given. In America, money is what seems to be the blessing. So we seem to have ourselves completely opposite of what God Himself has presented.
It is not that the money itself is something evil; as Saint Paul makes clear, it is love of money that is the root of all evil; it is that greed. This is something that as we get older especially we need to watch for. There is the old saying that “lust is the sin of the young and greed is the sin of the elderly.” We just simply shift our selfishness is really all that it comes down to. It is a matter of what form it is going to take, but it is all focused on the self. At the end of the Gospel reading, Jesus says, This is the way it will be for the man who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God. That, again, is what we have to make sure we are looking at. How much are we focused on ourselves? How much are we focused on God? The Lord makes clear to us that we have to store up treasure in heaven, not treasure on earth. It is all going to be left behind anyway, so what good is it going to do? Are we really happier because we have more things?
I always chuckle when I drive past these places that are springing up everywhere: storage places. You can rent a storage place and you can put all the things that you have accumulated because they do not all fit into your house, your garage, your basement, your shed, and every place else that you have to store your things. Now you can rent a garage specifically to store the overflow of all of your things. For what? You do not even look at them because they are stuffed away miles from your house. We are worse than squirrels burying things all over creation to see if they can come back and find them later. What good is it? What has it done to make anybody happy? It does not.
Saint Paul tells us that what was credited to Abraham as righteousness is also meant for us, and it has to do with our faith in God; not our faith in all of our materialism, not our faith in money, but our faith in God. There is no one to whom it has been credited as righteousness because they have accumulated more of the things of the world. And there is absolutely no one to whom it is credited as righteousness because they are selfish. That is exactly the opposite of charity, and we are created for the purpose of charity, for love.
So when we see what our society is presenting–selfishness and materialism and greed–we see that this is diametrically opposed to everything that God is about because He is about charity. He is about everything that is opposite of what is selfish. He wants us to have true freedom, and true freedom means to be free of all of the things that the world is offering. One of the things the saints tell us, in case we get worried about what we are going to do without all our junk, is that when you are detached from everything then you have everything because you have God, and absolutely everything exists within God. Nothing exists unless it exists within Him; therefore, everything is yours because you were willing to let go of everything, and God will provide it all for you.
As we look at that, we ask ourselves: Do we have the faith of Abraham who believed that the One Who made the promise was also able to carry it through? Do we really believe in God and in everything that He has promised? This is where it is not enough just to have that generic belief that God exists. We have to put it into practice, we have to pray for detachment, we have to work at getting rid of all of our selfishness and all of our greed, and not rent more storage space so we can store up treasure on earth, but we have to make sure that the real storehouse is the soul and that we are storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.