The Mass readings for the 18th and 19th Sundays in Ordinary Time invite us to examine what we treasure most in life and if this steers us toward eternity. The Old Testament Scripture readings from Wisdom, together with the epistles and the Gospel of St. Luke, offer inspiration for those seeking the inexhaustible treasure of life. 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I doing this?” The author of Ecclesiastes would say, “What you are doing may not matter after you are gone from this earth.” 

Herein lies skepticism when it comes to human toil. The realization of mortality plays a significant part in this poetic description of the “great misfortune of human toil.” With the labor of our hands comes an increasing anxiety of doing what may be fulfilling for the moment but lacks meaning in eternity. Do we perform actions which actually take root, provide meaning and are sustaining? 

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

The author describes his toils, doing a variety of good works, accumulating earthly stuff, then realizing both shall pass away in the blink of an eye as soon as death comes. Rather than despair, we, like the author, can accept the invitation to do what is pleasing to God, who is our counsel and gives all that is good. Our acceptance of heavenly guidance transforms the toils of our labor into that which is fruitful, pleasing and beautiful for God. Are our toils done in vain, filled with emptiness and fleeting joy? Are we doing what is pleasing to God? Are our toils life-giving, filled with faith, hope and focused on eternal life? 

St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, invites the faithful to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:2). He is inviting us to focus on spiritual and corporal works that move us toward Christ. St. Paul even provides a list of actions which cause an inward turn motivated by pleasure, power and honor. These, he denotes, are “evil.” Are we seeking a renewal of knowledge in God through Jesus Christ? Or are we seeking knowledge elsewhere? If, by baptism we belong to Christ, do our actions also belong to him?

In St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus places before us a challenge: Do we trust in God to provide all we need, or do we tightly grab on to passing earthly possessions to sustain life? The parable is powerful. A farmer’s abundant harvest causes him to lack storage space. As a result, he tears down his barn, then builds a larger one to store the grain for future use. Complacency sets in as he hangs on to this lottery-winning crop, keeping it all for himself. He sits back, celebrates and is quite happy. He locked the barn, held tightly to the key and limited access to only himself. His work; his goods; his treasure; his greed. Then, he dies that very night. Who benefitted from the fruit of his labor? No one. He kept it all to himself. It passed when he passed. 

We have an abundant harvest. Our life in Christ is as abundant as it gets on earth. Earthly fruits, both material and spiritual, are for building the kingdom of God, not for storing or hiding or hoarding. Do we detach from what is earth-binding and attach to what is kingdom-building? Do we choose to do what is good and pleasing to God in love and service to one another? St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote, “Our lives, to be fruitful, must be full of Christ.” 

A treasury of faith from Abraham 

Psalm 33 reads, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” God chooses all to be his own. We are to acknowledge God’s call by faith and with trust, which nurtures the courage to act. Faith elicits hope. Abraham, the father of faith, is a superior example of one chosen by God, as retold in the Letter to the Hebrews, and found in the Book of Genesis. 

The main characteristics of Abraham’s “yes” include obedience to God, trust in the unknown future, hope in God’s promise and courageous surrender. The depth of Abraham’s faith is such that he did whatever God asked of him. He knew that God’s command is truth. Abraham’s treasury of faith handed on hope and life to countless people for generations, until the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus. Abraham’s heart was with God. 

Jesus reminds us (Lk 12:32-48) that like Abraham, we are to be ready at all times to respond in faith, with hope and trust in God’s call. Our centeredness on God must remain consistent, steadfast and “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12:36). If our love of God is high priority, then we will hear him knocking and joyfully open the door with trust! If our love God is low priority, we miss the opportunity to hear the knock. An extreme focus on earthly treasures is destined to create emptiness that is beyond human manageability, for our desires are never satisfied. Enough will never be enough. St. Augustine in his book “Confessions of St. Augustine” states, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

May we be filled with trust and hope in the Lord, making each moment a priceless gem of love for God and neighbor, placing our treasure in the hands of Jesus. “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Amen.

Dow is the Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.