31 July 2022 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

By Fr Stanley Antoni

Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23
Psalm 89(90):3-6,12-14,17
Colossians 3:1-5,9-11
Luke 12:13-21

Everlasting Happiness in God

My dear friends,

People are genuine. A good philosopher will say that by reflecting nature we can learn a lot of things. When we reflect on nature, we come to know that rock will remain rocky. A square can never be a non-square. Grass is always grassy. And finally, dogs remain doggy. Something that will never change. However, only human beings can end up inhuman.

It seems to indicate, compared to all the things that we experience, only human beings able to do things that other creatures are unable to do. And that is why humanity is something that we need to work on constantly. It is because unlike all other creatures, we are the only one that can rationalise. We are the only one that can give excuses and being contented with mediocrity. We do not want to strive for excellence. We are happy being mediocre. And we come out with a lot of justifications, reasons for remaining at that level.

That is why today in the First Reading, vanity. Vanity is being contented with flattery. Flattery is seeking recognition. In the sense that our worth, who we are is based on what we have, how we look, what people say about us. That kind of a recognition that we seek so that we feel good about it. Such people, according to the author of the First Reading, are fools.

Why he calls them fools?

These people repeat the same proven mistakes of people of the past. We know we are more than this and yet we subscribe and we end up like them – disappointed, frustrated and depressed. So that is why today in the First Reading, false sense of worth makes us inhuman. We do not grow, we depend on people, we depend on what we have. It is not going to help us as well. That is why most of the time we end up inhuman.

Hypocrisy means pretending, a form. Any form of pretending is a lie. And lies are hollow in nature. That is why anything that builds on lies will collapse eventually because it is hollow. And we know this fact from our own experiences. Like it or not, when we lie, sooner or later it will be exposed.

That is why in today’s Second Reading, Paul urged Christians in Colossae to stop pretending. Stop pretending that you are a Christian community. He encouraged them to build and to lead a true sense of authentic Christian community.

And what is this?

Paul says you can do so only in Jesus. Because Jesus is the truth and Jesus will help us to grow in authenticity. That is why in Jesus, Paul reminded Christians in Colossae, there is no confusion of human nature. There is no class or race oppression. There is no status marginalisation. What you see is Jesus. When you see Jesus in others, nothing matters. That is why Paul reminded them – be aware of idols. When idols come in, they will make us inhuman.

So that is why today, Paul challenged them. You are pretending but in actual fact you are not a Christian community. That is why there is a lot of division, there is a lot of oppression, there is a lot of marginalisation and manipulation in that community. Greed rationalises hoarding. When we rationalise hoarding, we end up justifying our in-humanness or sub-humanness.

Why? I can think of two reasons.

Greed inspires us to focus solely on our selfs. Greed empowers us to talk, to busk about our rights, our wants, our comforts and our luxuries. That is why greed somehow leads us to close our eyes to people around us. We will be happy with our own little world that is clean, that is comfortable. We do not want to go out. We are comfortable with that little world that we have created.

The second reason why greed leads us to behave contrary to Jesus is greed also fortifies our false sense of security. We end up being confident of the future, as if the future is fully secured because we have gathered all that is needed without realising that life is a gift and it can end at any time.

That is why today, Jesus, you and I know, never condemns wealth or money. He condemns love for money or wealth at all costs because that is the cause of greed. So that is why greed makes us inhuman. Jesus calls such people who are greedy, who hoard – Fools.

That parable is a very thought-provoking parable because that parable is situated in the context where he just confronted the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And that is why today, greed not only hardens our hearts, we also end up worshiping our so-called treasures. And that is why Jesus warned, that is why Jesus said “Be aware.”

So today as we reflect, as we celebrate, as we try to pray, look at our world, our families, our church and our nation. Are we still human? Surely we are still human but the question is:-

Are we growing or losing our sense of humanity?

I think that is the question we need to ask. However good things can be, elevating praises can be, or glamorous recognition can be, they can be traps. Traps that will stop us from knowing and growing who we are in the eyes of God. These are only means to an end. They cannot be an end in themselves. This is why vanity can be a trap, trap that kills our real sense of worth.

For Ecclesiastes, for the author of the First Reading, it is God who defines our worthiness. It is God that defines and sustains our human nature. That is why he says “Learn. Don’t repeat that mistake. Learn and learn.”

So today, as Catholics, what do you think defines our human nature today? What makes you “You you”? What defines you? What is your worth? What is the worth of your wife or your children or a priest or parishioners? How do we gauge? Are we fools who fail to learn from past mistakes? Or we are wiser than the fools of the past because we have learned?

We have to be honest my dear friends. So who are you? Is it just because of what you have or how you look or what people say? But you are more than that. And who are you? Are you still human? Am I still human?

For Paul, a Christian community must be an authentic community. We reflected that earlier. Today, do we witness hypocrisy and pretensions in our parishes? In our community? Is there hypocrisy?

For example, do we see holiness that is limited to mere appearances? We appear to be holy but in fact we are not. Do we advocate sacredness that confines sacredness to mere rituals? Or there is something bigger than that? Can sacredness be confined to rituals? Or rituals is only a means for us to enter and to experience and to worship this God who loves us deeply? Do we witness consecration that promotes isolation?

I give you simple example. See our parishes still subscribing to old models. Our Masses are based on language. Can we change that model to a multi-lingual Masses where people can come and people can worship and we can see and we can recognise and we can celebrate together? I am not saying the old model is wrong. It has served its purpose. So can we dare try to grapple and try to move forward? Look at Cathedral. How many Masses you have? Can the Mandarin speaking compromise? Can the English speaking compromise? Can the Tamil speaking compromise? No!

That is why today, my dear friends, we are still contented with the old model. It has served its purpose. We need to move on. We need to find ways how we can gather, how we can celebrate, how we can be comfortable with diversity.

That is why today, my dear friends, nobody wants to talk about all these things. Why in the Synod we don’t discuss all these? These are our golden calves. We worship, we don’t want to be touched. That is why God said to Moses, “You melt it and you drink it or you just throw it.”

That is why today, my dear friends, can we have a deeper sense of consecration that will get rid of all these isolation. We isolate people, you know. I don’t know. Or our conversation. What kind of conversation do we engage? We win arguments through condemnation? Or we try to help people to reflect through dialogue? We condemn. We oppress. We silence them.

That is why today, my dear friends, our studies, our religion, our vocation, our career, our friendships, if we are all based, build on lies, it will collapse. Young people, when you have a friend, are you an honest friend or you are pretending to be a friend? What kind of friend you have? Do you speak the truth or you lie? What kind of priest am I? My vocation, is it build on lies or build on truth? Your marriage is build on what? Our career, build on what? Our studies, build on what?

That is why today, my dear friends, it will collapse if we don’t repent. That is why today we need to reflect, we need to do a kind of soul-search. Am I truly honest when I smile at Fr Stanley ‘Good morning, Father’ but in the heart, “He just gave me a homily that really disturbed me today. He called us, almost he calls us racist you know.”

So our good mornings, is it genuine because I love you? That is why today, my dear friends, the authentic Christian community – No pretending. I don’t like you, I tell you I don’t like you but I still love you. I don’t like you because this is how you gossip about me but what to do, I am a Parish Priest I must love you. And I will love you because this is what I promised to God and to the Bishop. And I will love you. I hope you will love me in return, without pretending. If you disagree with me, come and talk to me, not talk to the Sacristan. Talk to me.

That is why today, my dear friends, enough of pretending. I am not saying you all are, you are all genuine people okay. I am talking about myself here. Let us be genuine and authentic. Are you a 100% authentic to your wife? I don’t know. Or the other way around, wife, are you authentic with your husband? It can be the other way around also.

That is why today, my dear friends, we are called to build that authentic Christian community. We need to break idols. Only Jesus will give us the courage to break that idols. That is why, at the end, Paul ends the letter ‘Only Christ.” Only Christ. Nothing else.

And finally, Jesus has warned us the sin of greed. Are we still greedy? Do we hoard? How do we spend our money in our respective Parishes and Dioceses? What takes the big chunk of the expenditure? The electricity bill because we air-condition our church? Is it because of formation? Is it because we reach out to the poor who are in need? Or a big chunk of money goes to maintenance? What we do with our money in our Parishes? Ask your Parish Priest? Hold him accountable. Show me Father how you have spent the money. Ask him. Ask him nicely. Ask him, Father can I know?

But we don’t do that. Ask your Bishop. Bishop, how ah Bishop? That is why today, my dear friends, where does the money go? Are we using it for evangelisation? I don’t know. For us to reflect and for us to decide.

That is why today, my dear friends, our observation seems to confirm that rock remains rocky. Grass is always grassy and dogs remain doggy. But only humans can end up inhuman. Only Catholic community can end up being less Catholic. Of course we stay still catholic Father. Yes, mediocrity.

So today, let us pray for this grace. Are we really human? Are we growing in our sense of humanity?

My dear friends, one minute in silence. We are not angels. Neither are we animals. We are created to be human beings. So don’t be happy being an animal. Or don’t pray that you become an angel. Never happens. Try to know, try to understand and embrace to be human beings.

Click below to listen to the homily and watch the video:-

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