Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
During my last couple of years of college, as I was preparing for graduation and getting ready to enter the workforce, I remember having multiple conversations with my parents about setting myself up for success for retirement. My parents were trying to drive home the message of the importance of making sure that my future was financially secure because, let’s be honest, the way things are going right now, we may not be able to rely on Social Security when my generation reaches retirement age.
I also remember many of my brother priests encouraging me to do the same just before and after ordination. And I’ve listened. I am working with a financial advisor, I’ve got my retirement setup with the Diocese, I have a Roth IRA, I also have additional investments, a life insurance policy. You name it, I’ve probably got it. And I’m not alone in that, many of you have the same things and probably much more lined up. And those things are important. We absolutely need to make sure that we are prepared for the future.
Throughout this week, as I was praying with our readings for today, I found myself reflecting on how much we prepare ourselves financially for retirement and was brought to ask myself one question: do I place the same importance on my spiritual life? What about our spiritual retirement plan? Are we doing all that we can today to prepare ourselves for spending eternity with the Father?
In our First Reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author is doing a bit of a similar reflection on what things are truly worthwhile in life. If we read Ecclesiastes, or Qoheleth in Hebrew, we can start to get the impression that he has enjoyed all of the best things that life has to offer. He has experienced the pleasures of life, amassed great wealth and power, and attained a great amount of knowledge. And yet, he still feels an emptiness. He laments the emptiness that has resulted from working for something that one cannot take with them when they are gone. He has come to the realization that nothing has brought lasting value or satisfaction to his life. The author wisely asks: what is the point of striving for a profit that ends with our earthly life? If we can’t take these things with us when we go, why put so much effort into obtaining them? Why be so anxious about achieving this level of earthly success?
Ultimately, the conclusion of this passage – and really of the entirety of the Book of Ecclesiastes – was to encourage the Jewish people to live in the here and now, to enjoy each day as it comes, and not become too attached to the things that this world has to offer. That was an important and practical lesson for the Jewish people during that time. At the point in history that this book was written, the Jews did not have a belief in the existence of heaven or hell. They believed that there was some kind of existence after death, but it was an existence that was neither happy nor unhappy. So this is the best idea that anyone during this time really could have come up with. And yet, many still didn’t get the message.
There is a reason that Jesus shares the parable of the rich fool in our Gospel. As He traveled throughout the region and preached the Good News, He had seen that many people were continuing to live in this mindset that they should amass as much wealth and power as possible. They were continuing to seek after things that will never truly satisfy. They were continuing to miss the point. Jesus shared this parable to highlight how the “rich fool was a man who lived his life without reference to God and was caught in the toils of futility and meaninglessness.” It’s meant to be a story that calls those listening to Jesus to a deeper recognition of how there was more to life than these passing things.
Jesus’ purpose and mission was to come and shake up the Jewish understanding of life; it was to bring a sense of meaning to life, to remind them of what was truly important and to bring them to an awareness of everlasting life. He wants them to strive for relationship with the Father and to focus on amassing treasure in heaven. That’s a message that St. Paul echoes in his letter to the Church in Colossae.
St. Paul encourages the Colossians to seek what is above, to remember that, because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we have become sons and daughters of God. Paul reminds them and he reminds us that, since we have been raised with Christ through Baptism, we are going in a Heavenly direction. We have become the adopted children of the Father and are, because of that, citizens of Heaven. Our inheritance is there. Paul is trying to get us to stay focused on striving for holiness, striving for union with the Father, striving for Eternity.
The desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied by what is here today and gone tomorrow…because we have not been made for this world. We have been made for ‘what is above.’ “For Paul, the whole process of joining Christ in glory,” the whole idea of entering into everlasting communion with the Father in Heaven, “revolves around ‘taking off our old self…and putting on the new self, which is being renewed…, in the image of its Creator’. Although power, influence and possessions come and go, our new self will endure because it is grounded in the power of the risen Lord.” “Think of what is above,” he tells us, “not of what is on earth.” In other words, we need to think about our spiritual retirement plan.
Today, Jesus is encouraging us to remember our lives are brief and that Eternity is inching closer every day. He wants us to live with our eyes fixed on heaven, where we will see him face to face, living with Him forever, experiencing the fullness of joy. Christ wants us to live today in such a way that makes us ready for the eternal tomorrow of God. So how do we get there? What do we need to do today to prepare for our spiritual retirement?
All of us should go to Mass as often as possible. We can visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, spending time with Him in quiet, sharing what is on our hearts, opening up about what we struggle with or what brings us joy. We should get to know the heart of God by reading Scripture daily. There are multiple ways to get the readings for each day, so even if we can’t make it to daily Mass, we can still at least stay up to date with what the readings are. Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation, approach the Lord with humility and ask Him for forgiveness for the times that we make mistakes and ask Him for help in continuing to strive for holiness. Pray the rosary. Ask the saints to pray for us. Offer our time in service to others, doing works of charity and being Christ for others.
These are all ways that we can seek to ensure that we are building our inheritance in Heaven. These are all ways that we build our spiritual retirement plan. So today, as we come forward for communion, may we make a renewed commitment to the Lord to focus on the things that are above, to strive for Heaven, and to seek to give our spiritual lives the importance they deserve.
Image: Parable of the Rich Fool, Rembrandt. Public Domain. Used under Wikicommons licesne.
 Fr. Antony Kadavil, “Reflections for the XVIII Sunday” on Sunday Relfections at Vatican News. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2019-08/sunday-reflection-vatican-news.html
2 thoughts on “Spiritual Retirement Plan”
Love this idea…. Our spiritual retirement is so important… we need to think that way… that we are banking our good works just like we bank roll our financial retire options.
Nailed it! Thank you for this insight.