By Fr. Michael Seheri, Johannesburg, South Africa
18th Sunday-Year C
We are called to avoid excessive attachments to earthly pleasures and desires
All the three readings of this Sunday give us one crucial message, namely: we are called to avoid excessive attachments to earthly pleasures and desires, to the meaningless and constant search for power, fame, glory, wealth, and material possessions. All these are hindrances in our journey towards the attainment of salvation. It is for this reason that this Sunday the Church, through the readings, reminds each of us about the need to renounce the excessive desire of earthly possessions; the desire which separates us from the love of God.
The author of the first reading exhorts us that our pursuits of earthly pleasures and desires are meaningless. The author highlights how all the energy we exert into accumulating all these meaningless and fruitless worldly things will not last in the end, because they are superficial. All the energy we exert into the excessive pursuit of money, glory, fame, achievements and other worldly matters, in the end, will not bring us peace. The author declares: “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”
Our human nature has a tendency of craving for more and more of earthly things. And when we have amassed our earthly desires and pleasures, we are still not truly content. This is because worldly pleasures and desires do not truly provide us with true and lasting happiness. As soon as we think we are happy and satisfied with what we have gained and received, we are likely to want more; we will never have enough. We spend countless hours trying to accumulate more and more.
The author of the first reading reminds us that if we continue to indulge excessively in earthly desires and attachments, then in the afterlife, all that we had accumulated through greed and selfishness will remain here on earth; we will not take it with us. Whether we end up in paradise, in God’s presence, or whether in the pit of hell, our earthly attachments, status, riches, fame, will remain here on earth. When we pass on from this world, through death, all of us shall depart from this world with absolutely nothing on us, just the same way we came into this world.
Excessive love of worldly possessions blinds us from serving God faithfully and causes divisions among families. In the Gospel, a man says to Jesus: “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” Then, Jesus says to him: “Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions … he who lays up treasure for himself [here on earth] is not rich towards God.”
Jesus addresses his disciples and the crowds who are following him, particularly this man who asks him to be the arbiter in their family conflict over inheritance, by pleading with the Lord to persuade his brother to share with him the family inheritance. I am pretty sure that we all know that issues concerning family inheritance are usually very complicated and drawn-out, with conflicting parties wanting to get more of the inheritance. What makes such issues drawn-out and difficult to resolve is that each party tends to keep making demands and no one can truly be content.
Such conflicts and struggles lead to prolonged suffering for members of the family. Not only that: such conflicts also destroy relationships between people, between families and relatives. Regrettably, the material possessions we fight over diminish the value of our relationship with one another, the family bond, and friendships. Excessive love of worldly possessions blinds us from serving God faithfully and causes divisions among families.
The worldly possessions, pleasures and desires – we keep fighting over – can be lost and destroyed within a short space of time. They can be destroyed, for example, by fire. These are not true treasures. Jesus says in the Gospel: “A person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions … he who lays up treasure for himself [here on earth] is not rich towards God.” Even if our worldly attachments are not destroyed, our death will be the ultimate end of all of them. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel not to be blinded and misled by our earthly attachments and desires.
All of us have to guard against being easily swayed by the temptations of this world. Jesus warns us not against attaining material possessions or accumulating money. No! What he warns us against is the excessive obsessions with things which can occasion our downfall, distracting us from the path of righteousness.
Paul, in the second reading, reminds us: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Paul exhorts us to renounce immoral and improper attachments to worldly desires and vices, that is, all the things which prevent us from finding our way to God.
May God help us all!