Become rich in the sight of God and trust in Jesus

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

There was a wealthy landowner who lived in the Scottish Highlands. He had a stately mansion overlooking a beautiful valley. But there was a basic emptiness in his life. He had no religious belief, he lived alone, possessed by his possessions.

In the gate lodge at the entrance to his estate lived John his farm manager. John was a man of simple faith and deep religious commitment. With his family John was a regular church-goer, the Lord’s presence was a reality in his home and often at night the landowner noticed John’s family on their knees in prayer.

One morning the landowner was looking out on the valley. As he gazed on the beautiful scene he was saying to himself, ‘It is all mine’ when he heard the doorbell ringing. Going down he found John on the door step. ‘What’s the matter John?’ he asked.’ John looked embarrassed. ‘Sir, could I have a word with you?’

‘Sir,’ said John hesitantly, ‘last night I had a dream, and in it the Lord told me that the richest man in the valley would die tonight at midnight. I felt you should know’.

The landowner dismissed him, but John’s words kept bothering him, so much so that at eleven o’clock he took out his car and went to the local doctor for a complete check-up. The doctor examined him, pronounced him fit as a fiddle and said he’d give him another twenty years. The landowner was relieved but a lingering doubt caused him to invite the doctor around. They enjoyed a meal together and shortly after 11.30 the doctor got up to leave but the landowner prevailed on him to remain on.

Eventually when midnight passed and he was still in the land of the living he saw the doctor to the door and then went up the stairs muttering, ‘Silly old John…upset my whole day… him and his dreams!’

No sooner was he in bed when he heard the doorbell ringing. It was 12.30. Going down he found a grief-stricken girl at the door whom he recognized instantly as John’s teenage daughter.

‘Sir,’ she said, looking at him through her tears, ‘Mammy sent me to tell you that Daddy died at midnight.’ The landowner froze as it was suddenly made clear to him who was the richest man in the valley.

(This is an abbreviated version of the story of the Scottish landowner which I found in Stories for Preachers pages 77-80 by James A. Feehan, used here with his permission and published by Mercier Press.)

In the parable in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21) Jesus invites us to make ourselves rich in the sight of God. The richest man in the valley may not be the one with the most money. Jesus said, “Watch and be on your guard because a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.” (Luke 12:15) Jesus taught the same on other occasions also when he said, “You cannot be the slave of two masters, you cannot serve both God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) On another occasion Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be given you as well.” (Matt 6:33) How do we seek first the kingdom of God, how do we make ourselves rich in the sight of God? Like so many other things, it all begins in the mind and then affects our lives. So our attitude is to be one of trust in God instead of trusting in the resources of this world. There are some very helpful passages in the Bible to help us grow in trust in God. We could spend a whole lifetime meditating on the first two lines of Psalm 23;

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.

There are also some very beautiful lines in Ps 16 that help us to trust in God;

Preserve me God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone”…
O Lord it is you who are my portion and cup,
it is you yourself who are my prize.

Ps 62 also encourages us to trust in God;

In God alone is my soul at rest;
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.

When we stop and think about why we are on this planet, why God created us, where we will end up when we die, at least some of what we do could be described by the words of our first reading, “Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” (Eccl 1:2) Jesus invites us to make ourselves rich in the sight of God. The richest man in the valley may not be the one with the most money. Jesus said, “Watch and be on your guard because a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.” (Luke 12:15)

Let us conclude now by making an act of trust in God. We close our eyes and in your imagination see Jesus in front of you. He is looking at you, smiling at you. He invites you to trust in him. Jesus asks you to let go of anything that is keeping you from trusting in him.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose
Near restful waters he leads me
to revive my drooping spirit.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Eighteenth Sunday Year C

God is Offering You Millions, Don’t settle for pennies!

We are to live with our bodies here on earth but with our minds and souls in heaven 2007
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