Homily for 18th Sunday of the Year 2010
Many were still getting over the shock of their brand new water bills when the separate rate bills came in. There have been pretty big increases in basic needs in recent times. They can push some people on lower incomes to the brink if not over it. On the other hand for someone who is pretty wealthy these new costs hardly make an impact at all. This is why the rich can be blind to the plight of the poor. They rarely suffer these kind of consequences of inflation as those on low incomes do. They have not had to walk in their shoes.
In much of the debates about refugees or indigenous people one gets the distinct impression that the reality of such people's plight is not worthy of thought. Instead, keep them well apart from my comfortable lifestyle. There is a willing blindness to the human reality of the desperate in society.
It is partly this kind of blindness that Jesus points out in the parable of the very successful farmer. He is not saying that the wealthy are bad nor that the poor are good. Rather, we need to realise that all our success is in vain if there is no thought of what life is all about. What good is more and more wealth or possessions in the end. The old saying holds true, 'you can't take it with you'. Or as someone else said, 'You can only take with you what you have given away!' Put another way, all we have is gift, not ours by right. Creation is a gift for all to share. It loses its purpose if used selfishly.
The first reading is like a commentary on the Gospel even though written many years before. The book of Ecclesiastes is part of what is called the "wisdom literature" of the Old Testament. Like the books of Proverbs and Sirach, it contains a collection of practical wisdom for teaching the young and old. The present reading is a famous one that sounds as if the writer is suffering from depression! The vanity he refers to is not the vanity of someone concerned about their appearance. The sense of it is that everything we do is in vain! All our work and labour is in vain, it seems, because no matter what we do we could lose it all tomorrow, just like the rich farmer in the Gospel.
This reading from Ecclesiastes remained part of the Bible even though it sounds so negative. It describes the reality of our human experience and invites a response. It does not mean we should all give up trying our best. Not at all. It does mean that we should accept the challenge those words present to us. We need to consider our motivations in all we do. We are reminded that the goal of all our striving is not confined to this life but extends beyond it to the next.
Last week I was out on the Darling Downs for a family "Christmas in July". I observed large fields of sorghum growing. We talked about the amazing fertility and productivity of the soil of the Downs. And I remarked to my brother how silent it all was. There was an enormous area producing grain without any apparent effort on its part. And it all happened in complete silence! We on the other hand rush around with our noisy machines with not a minute to lose. The contrast is not to say one is better than the other. The contrast is to point out again that we need to keep our lives in perspective. Our future and our security is not totally dependant on what I can achieve on my own. We depend on God. St Paul reflects this attitude in his letter to the Colossians. We live a new kind of life. We have died to a futile kind of life when we were baptised. Our life is hidden with Christ in God, he says. Our hidden life grows silently within God often unbeknown to us like the grain in the field. Because of that new life with Christ all the self centred passions should have no sway over us. Nor is there is to be any distinction between people, whatever their status. All are one in Christ.
You may have noticed that "The Shack" in Price Street, Nambour, has fallen on hard times. Their ceiling has fallen in. That organisation provides help for people who live on the street or with little means. With Ozanam House out of action while it is rebuilt, places like “The Shack” are under a lot of pressure. If anyone can help them it would be appreciated.
So we we can remind ourselves of at this Eucharist where all come to receive from the one loaf and the one cup. We place the bread and wine, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, on the altar and receive it back as the Body of Christ given up for us. Christ is our life, Paul says. A forgetfulness of the needs of our neighbour is impossible for the Christian.