18th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: Do not store up treasures on earth; rather, store up treasures in heaven.
We live is a materialistic world. We work hard for financial rewards, so that we may enjoy the finer things in life, to provide our family and our children. When we die, many of us will leave behind inheritance for our children, so that they may enjoy the financial fruits of our labour. This is how many of us have and will lead our lives – those who are secular and even many of us who are spiritual. Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with hard work or providing for our children. However, there is a danger. It is often that while we indulge ourselves in our pursuit of earthly treasures that we lose sight of our spirituality. It is then that our quest could easily fall into immorality. As the Apostle James warned us, “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts.” (James 4:2) This week, the Scripture challenges us to transcend our pursuit from earthly treasures to a higher plain.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ taught us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19-21) Compared to eternity, our earthly life is but a fleeting moment. Compared to heavenly treasures, our earthy treasures only provide for us while we are on earth, that fleeting moment. It is for this reason that the Second Reading urges us to focus on “things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (verse 2). In the passage, Paul urges us to leave our earthly thoughts behind and walk away from earthly sins such as “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed” (verse 5). In their place, think only of heavenly things, so that we may build up heavenly treasures.
The Gospel tells the parable of the rich fool. In this parable, the rich man was busy making plans to store up his earthly treasures for his future enjoyment; foolishly neglecting the heavenly treasures he needs for his eternal salvation. In his indulgence in earthly treasures, the man even made the crucial error of not distinguishing between his earthly and his afterlife existence: “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ ” (verse 19) In his indulgence, he forgot that his soul does not eat or drink! As the story goes, the man died that night. So in the end, all his meticulous planning came to naught.
Perhaps you might say, even though the rich man died, he would have at least left a rich inheritance to his descendants to live comfortably. However, this too is denounced by the Scripture. Written under the theme of social justice, the First Reading denounces the act of leaving inheritance for other “who did not toil for it” (verse 2:21). This is in fact a form of vanity, the passage tells us. Riches on earth are a gift from God, and need to be put to good use, such as helping the poor, evangelisation work, etc. Used wisely, earthly treasures build up heavenly treasures that no one can take away.
Let us reflect. Am I so consumed by the secular world that I have made the same mistake as the rich fool? Have I let my quest for earthly treasures overshadows what is really important? Have I failed to recognise the temporary nature of my earthly existence? May the verse of the Responsorial Psalm rings in our heart as we reflect: “teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Ps 90:12). Amen.