18th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C (2)

Today’s readings invite us to consider what “retirement plan” should be our priority in life: whatever gets us to Heaven.

In today’s First Reading Ecclesiastes, who is doing an extended philosophical reflection on what things are truly worthwhile in life, laments the emptiness of working for something that you cannot take with you when you are gone. Our endeavors are profitable, but upon death those profits may be given in inheritance to those who had nothing to do with them, who will eventually lose them too. Ecclesiastes wisely asks what is the point of striving for a profit that ends with our earthly life? We all catch ourselves from time to time worrying about things that are ultimately fleeting and secondary. What’s the point about worrying about these things?

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul teaches us what is truly worth worrying about: our heavenly inheritance. What we treasure impacts the focus of our concern and attention. Paul puts us on guard against fleeting treasures: putting other things in place of God, seeking pleasure at any cost, sowing division, etc. Through Baptism we’ve received the pledge of an eternal reward. The first payment has already been advanced to us: the Holy Spirit. Our lives, like a treasure, are now buried, safe and sound, in Christ. We always retain the option of digging up that treasure and squandering it for something earthly, but we’d be fools if we did.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel is teaching us to not rely on earthly, vain things. We don’t even know how many years we’ll have to enjoy them. Our Lord today almost answers Ecclesiastes’ question as to the point of striving for vain things, and St. Paul learned the lesson. What is truly profitable for us and others is what the Lord considers treasure. He created all things and knows the worthwhile way to invest them. The rich retiree in today’s parable did not use the goods the Lord had put into his path to accumulate true and lasting wealth in Heaven. He decided to accumulate his wealth and live off his earnings. We’ve all heard of early retirements. The flaw in his logic was thinking he’d have time. Ecclesiastes’ question tragically played out as the wealthy man’s riches are taken away from him in death, leaving them for someone else, and leaving him with nothing. The wealth that Our Lord offers us is non-transferable, and never expires. Holiness and virtue are the investments that win us lasting wealth.

If the rich man in today’s Gospel had realized that time was such a precious commodity in his life, especially in light of its importance for a happy eternity, he would have used it much more wisely. In the light of eternity, we see that time is our most precious commodity. We don’t know how much time we have in this world. The way we invest that time will affect us forever. Ask yourself this week whether you are making the best investment of your time in the light of what really matters: the wealth Our Lord wants to offer you.

Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21–23; Psalm 90:3–6, 12–13; Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11; Luke 12:13–21. See also 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C, and 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.