Homilies

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 18:6-9; Heb.11:1-2.8-19; Gospel Luke 12: 32-48
Eternal Life – Begins Here & Now!

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of Our Lady of Lourdes – Singapore
on 7th August 2016

There is a story of Charlie, a rich and successful businessman who noticed a fisherman sitting under the shade of a coconut tree, drinking coconut water and very much at peace with himself.  Charlie felt that the fisherman was wasting his life away when he should be out catching more fish.  So, Charlie being somewhat concerned and even upset for the fisherman, went up to him and said, “Sir, I hope you don’t mind me asking, why are you not out fishing”?   There is a whole day of fishing ahead of you and there is so much fish to catch. 
The fisherman turned to Charlie and smiled at him and said, “Well I had already gone out fishing early this morning and have caught enough of fish for the day.”
But, Charlie said, “It is only 7.00 am, I am sure you could catch even more fish today?!”
The fisherman answered, “But what would I do with the fish?”
Charlie answered, “You could sell them, make more money and buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish!”
And then, what do I do next?  Answered the fisherman.
Charlie replied, “Well, you can then enjoy life.”
To this the fisherman replied, “What do you think I am doing right now?”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this simple story in some ways illustrates today’s Gospel of Jesus trying to remind us that there are far more important things in life than just accumulating more material wealth and trying to find our securities in life from such possessions. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus assures His disciples and us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the Kingdom.”  By this Jesus is assuring us, that His Father in His infinite and divine generosity has given us a treasure that “will not fail us; that no thief can steal and no moth can destroy” . . . and indeed a treasure that will last for all eternity. 

 In other words, the main message of Jesus in today’s Gospel is to urge us to open up our minds and hearts more fully to the Truth of life.  Jesus is urging us to focus our attention on what our life is all about and not too caught up by the many unnecessary concerns of our daily living, as Charlie in our simple story illustrates.  If Charlie’s goal in life is to enjoy life, but ends up spending all his energies and worries in life trying to make as much money as possible, if he is not careful, he may end up not achieving and not enjoying his purpose in life at all.  In other words, without being lazy, the fisherman’s attitude seems to be closer to the Gospel than that of Charlie.

Jesus in today’s Gospel is challenging you and I to be more radical because Jesus is saying to His disciples and us, that if we truly want to embrace the gift of the Kingdom that God our Father wants to give us, then we should “invest in the heavenly bank” where our returns and reward would last for all eternity. 

In other words, Jesus is saying to you and to me that, if we were to be detached from our earthly and material possessions, and our many unnecessary self-concerns in our lives, and focus our time, energy and attention on loving God and living His Father’s Will in our daily living, then we will surely find the true peace and freedom in life that God wants to experience while we are on our earth’s journey.

For such detached living Jesus asks us to reflect on our daily living and ask ourselves, “If we were to search our hearts, what do you think we will find as our heart’s treasures?”  Would our heart’s treasure be to get as much “gold, glory and gratification” in life or would our heart’s treasure be to “praise God, serve God and glorify God in all that we do and how we live daily? 

However, it seems to me that many of us may say that our heart’s treasure is not fully in either of these two extremes, but it is more accurate to say that we seem to have one foot on the “gold, glory and gratification” of the world and another foot on wanting to “praise God, serve God and glorify God.”  If this is so, then I believe Jesus who understands our hearts is very aptly reminding us in today’s Gospel that we should live a more vigilant life.  

Otherwise, He says, “Thieves will break into our house at an hour that we least expect and steal all our treasures.”  In other words, Jesus is saying to us that if we are not focused on developing our relationship with God in “praising, serving and glorifying Him” we may end up being robbed of such desires (like the thief in the Gospel), and end up, praising, serving and glorifying ourselves, instead of God our Father. 

On a practical level we could live and grow in our relationship with God and grow in the wisdom of the gift of God’s Kingdom in three different ways.  For this I would like to pick on the wisdom of a Jesuit priest, Fr Joseph Galdon once shared that:

First, one of the most important things of the spirit is kindness.  “Kindness is a little thing dropped in the heart’s Be kind, and soon you will be a saint.”  We learn and experience over time that the greatest and happiest people in the world are kind people; they may not be rich, they may not be successful, but they are happy. 

Second, there is a story of a rabbi who once asked his students how they could tell when the night had ended and the day was dawning.  One of his student answered that daylight is when you could see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog.  The rabbi said, “No!”  A few other students tried, but could not get the answer; in the end the wise rabbi said, “Darkness has ended and the night is over when you look at the face of any person you meet and know that he or she is your brother or sister.  Because if you do not see that they are your brother or your sister, no matter what time it is, it is still night in your life.”  When everyone you meet is your brother or your sister, there will be light in the world and you will be a truly happy person.

Third, our lives would be a lot happier if we stopped complaining and critising and took a moment off every once in a while each day to say thank you for the good things in life and for the people who have been good to us and made us smile.  However, happiness often escapes us because it is so easy to take for granted the little things that make life happy for us. 

There is an old proverb that says, “Talk is cheap.” This is certainly true as far as it goes.  But, talk can also be a remarkable human characteristic, for all the creatures that God created, only human beings can talk.  So, in talk we can also bring happiness to our lives and the lives of people around us: for “talk” can be used to console, forgive, enlighten, show respect, express gratitude, affirm goodness, lead people to love one another and love God, and in all situation, encourage everyone to say “thank you” . . .

And so, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that in today’s Gospel, Jesus in urging His disciples, is also reminding us, who are His disciples in today’s world that: the first and foremost Truth in life is that the greatest treasure and surest security in our life is not in our material riches, as Charlie in our story has been misled to think.  It is the gift of the Kingdom of God that God our Father has given us, and this divine Gift begins in this life and will last for all eternity. 

To embrace this gift of the Kingdom we are each called first, to be kind and in doing so, we may become a saint one day.  Second, to see and relate to each other as “brothers and sisters,” and third, to be grateful to people at all times and take every opportunity in life to thank people, and use our words to console, forgive, enlighten, show respect, express gratitude, affirm goodness, and lead people to love one another and love God in all situations of our lives. 

(ref. adapted from: “Laughing Christ, collected reflections of Joseph Galdon, SJ. Jesuit Communications Foundations, Inc.: QC, Philippines: 1996; pp.276-278).

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

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