Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21
One of the canons in the Canon Law that I remember clearly from my seminary formation is Canon #1300, which summarily states: “The legitimately accepted wills of the faithful who give or leave their resources for pious causes, are to be fulfilled most diligently even regarding the manner of administration and distribution of goods.”
This means that the Church must ensure that these bequeathed material goods are disposed of strictly according to the intentions and purposes of the donors. For example, goods given for the purpose of assisting the poor cannot be used to renovate the parish rectory. Obviously, goods given for the evangelizing mission of the Church should not be used to settle clergy sex abuse cases and wicked cover up by the church’s hierarchy.
If there is an obligation to dispose of the goods of the faithful only according to their expressed intentions, how much greater is this same obligation when the giver is God Himself? Every gift from God has a purpose and that purpose is from God, and not from us. We can and we should express gratitude to God for His gifts. We can even ask for more of His gifts. But we must also be truly wise persons who always try to ascertain the purpose of God’s gifts and fulfill this purpose.
Quoheleth says, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” to emphasis the utter foolishness of laboring and striving in this life just for the sake of having, enjoying, and possessing ephemeral things. It is foolishness to ignore the purpose of human life, the meaning of God’s gifts to us, and the true value of human effort. To ignore this purpose is to labor for the sake of something that vanishes like smoke, “To another who has not labored over it, he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune”(Eccl 1:2, 2:21).
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s First Principle and Foundation states the purpose of all God’s gifts: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God, our Lord, and by this means, to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earthy are created to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.” All God’s gifts are meant to be used for the greater praise and glory of God, to offer Him deep respect, obedience, and worship, to serve Him in others on this earth, and ultimately, to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
Thus, Jesus first calls us to “take care to guard against all greed” because it is not the amount of our possessions that guarantee the quality of our lives but our ability to possess and use them according to God’s purpose. The rich man in the parable is truly foolish because he did not bother to search for and to be faithful to the divine purpose of his bountiful harvest. Rather, he imposed his own selfish purpose to God’s gifts to him, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.”
Though his wealth increased, the rich fool did not use his goods to give greater praise to God. His goods did not bring him to worship and reverence God more ardently. On the contrary, he became completely closed to serving God and others with his goods, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years.” He became so complacent that he did not do anything more to save his soul, “Rest, eat, drink, be merry!” (See Lk 12:13-21) All these and more occurred because he ignored God’s purpose for his wealth.
Secondly, Jesus calls us to use all that we have now so as to become “rich in what matters to God.” What matters to God is our eternal salvation, “God our Savior desires that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim 2:4). This is the purpose of all His gifts to us. This means that we are to engage and use the passing things of earth wisely so as to attain the eternal things of heaven. Hence St. Paul’s exhortation, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:1-2). We just cannot be rich in what matters to God – our salvation – if we lack that wisdom that seeks and fulfills the divine purpose in all His gifts.
Our salvation matters so much to God that He sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to make us truly wise when it comes to using all God’s gifts on this earth. Because “all things were created through Him and for Him,”(Col 1:17) it is in Christ alone and through communion with Him that we can properly discern and be faithful to God’s purpose in everything that we receive from God.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a certain foolishness that we see in our world today when it comes to using the many gifts that God has given to us. In this foolishness, we trying to impose our own warped and selfish purposes to His gifts. Many of us think that the purpose of the Christian life is to save the environment. We seem to forget that our vocation is to use all of creation in way that praises, reverences, and serves God and others. The entire “My body, my choice” mentality pretends that the human body is for sexual pleasure without consequences and for experimenting in gender fluidity. We foolishly think we are lords of our time when we spend countless hours immersed in mindless browsing of social media.
In death, we shall be judged by our wisdom or foolishness in how we have made use of God’s gifts in this life, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” No matter our past foolishness that made us ignore the divine purpose in all God’s gifts, we can begin today to be wise. We can receive His gifts with gratitude and search diligently for His purpose, embrace it, and strive to fulfill this purpose always. We can know His purpose behind all His gifts because He has assured us, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7).
God has not only given us many gifts in this life – time, treasures, talents, abilities, experiences, strengths, etc. He also offers us many graces. Divine grace gives us light and strength to use all these gifts in living according to God’s unchanging purpose now and for our eternal salvation.
By the grace of the Holy Eucharist, let us be wise in using God’s gifts according to His purpose until the hour of our death and do so for the sake of our eternal salvation. That is what matters most to God and it should matter most to us too.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!