First Reading: Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm: 90. R. v. 1; Second Reading: Col 3:1-5.9-11; Gospel: Lk 12:13-21
THE VANITY OF WORRYING AND THE OPENNESS TO GRATITUDE AND GENEROSITY
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Every Sunday, I usually deliver a homily that approximately lasts within the time frame of eight to ten minutes. Within this time frame, if our level of attentiveness were to be measured on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself? If we can see through the hearts of one another during the homily at Mass, we would be surprised at the contents of our hearts. The stealth enemy to attentive listening is distraction. It comes in a very stealth manner and nibbles on our attentiveness until it consumes it completely.
While the homily is on at Mass, some of us could easily be swayed by several thoughts unconnected to the content of the homily. It could be what happened at home few hours ago before we left for mass. It could be the thought of someone we admire or love as we scan through the Church to see if s/he is at Mass. It could be about our ill-tempered spouse, wayward son, irresponsible daughter or sick parents. It could even be the frustrating thought of joblessness, poor growth in business, or the worrying thought of why we are still single and unmarried. We can go on and on. Human beings can be distracted three to four times faster than they listen.
The man who spoke to Jesus from the crowd in the gospel of today is not left out. If we read from the beginning of Luke’s gospel chapter twelve, from where the gospel of today was taken from, we would discover that Jesus delivered a couple of teachings. He taught the multitude about the need to fear and acknowledge God, the sin against the Holy Spirit, and the advocacy of the Holy Spirit in their moment of persecution. It was while these teachings were going on that this man from the multitude interrupted Jesus with a request unconnected to what Jesus was teaching. He asked “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.”
The request of this man obviously revealed what preoccupied his mind all the while as Jesus taught the crowd. His distraction was his share of inheritance which his brother either refused or was delaying to give him. He was so engrossed by this worry that he completely missed out all that Jesus was teaching. This is a clear example of the seed that fell among thorns in the parable of the sower which Jesus explained as those who hear the word of God but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Mt 13:22).
One thing about being distracted is that it is often unintentional. In most cases, we actually wanted to pay conscious attention to the event of the moment but are helplessly carried away by something that spells out where our priority lies. “For where our treasure is, there will our heart be also” (Mt 6:21).
What is our agent of distraction? What are the things that easily carry our attention away from the things of God? To this man in the gospel of today, it was inordinate desire for wealth; something that became a blinder to gratitude and generosity. And this is the danger of selfishness. When we think only of our self interest, we will be blind to show gratitude to God for what we already have received and fail to see the needs of those around us. If God were to evaluate our priorities and plans in life, what would he call us? Wise or foolish?
Many of the things that worry and distract us in life are often a blinder to the things we already have. We worry about tomorrow and fail to see the gift of today. We worry about achievements and are blind to thank God for the gift of life. We are troubled because we cannot afford a car when we still have our legs to walk with. We want a house of our own and not a rented apartment which God provided for us. We are angry with God for not sufficiently providing our daily bread and forget that many are hungry, sick and dying in hospitals. The insatiability of the human needs have become a companion of evil; the evil of inordinate desire that forgets generosity and gratitude.
The sole message of today is for us to thank God for what we already have received from him and to learn to give rather than always wanting to receive and hoard. Anything in this world that we worry about and toil for are the vanities of life. They are vanities because they lack eternal values. We toil for them and eventually leave them behind. These things are not worth the attention we give them to the extent of making us neglect the values that eternally endure. This is not a way of discouraging us to seek for earthly wealth and to plan for the future, but that these things shouldn’t get in the way of our salvation.
I do not know what is bothering us at the moment as we listen. But one thing I know is that life is more precious and valuable than that piece of worry. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:27: “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour or a cubit to your span of life?” Worrying has no health benefit. It only depletes our health and steals our time. So do not allow the worries and distractions of life to snatch away this moment you are spending with God. Be grateful for this graced moment. Be thankful for what you have received. Be generous with what you already have. In this way we store up treasures for ourselves in heaven. Nothing lasts forever. Only God does.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see the things we have received and to be grateful for them. Melt our hearts to be generous in using them. And grant us the grace of contentment. Amen.