The Money Trap

(September 30, 2018)

Bottom line: If we recognize who our money belongs to, other parts of our lives fall into right order.

Today we have our final selection from James. We can sum up his message is three words: Turn to God. Like the sunflower seeks the sun so our souls should seek God. Turn away from darkness, illusion and vanity - and turn to God.

James spells out the illusions keeping us from God. For example, he mentions the sins of the tongue. The same tongue we use to bless God, we sometimes use to curse others. We fall into gossip. You know how it goes: "I can't believe what that guy did! How could he be so stupid?" It's so much fun, but when it's over I'm wondering what my gossip partner is saying about me. Gossip has become our national pastime. It's hard to find news of persecution going on in many nations, but no problem getting negative news about political figures, movie stars - and religious leaders. Gossip separates us from others - and from God.

Besides sins of the tongue, James addresses lust or unchastity. God gave the gift of sexuality for unity and procreation: the life-long union of marriage and to have children. When a person pursues sexual pleasure apart from those goals, it becomes destructive. Now, everyone who has reached a certain age has fallen short. Still it's not too late to turn from darkness and turn to God. Like the sunflower we can make a fresh start each morning.

James then describes a third sin even more destructive than gossip or lust: that green eyed monster of jealousy or envy. It tortures a person to the point he wants to destroy the other. Like gossip envy has become pervasive. Instead of learning how to work together we've become focused on bringing the other guy down.

Today James gives a strong lesson against envy. He tells the rich to weep and wail over their impending miseries. Your wealth will rot, he says, your clothes will become moth eaten; your gold and silver will tarnish and lose their value.

To illustrate this reversal we have the story of a man to whom a genie appears. The genie tells him he can have any wish. The man asks for the newspaper of one year from today. The genie grants the wish and the man eagerly opens the paper to the stock market report. He sees which stocks rise and which fall. He begins to calculate the stocks he will sell and the ones he will buy - imagining what he will do with his wealth. Then he glances to the other side and sees his own picture. Does the picture acclaim a clever investor? No, it's the obituary page!

Perhaps the genie woke the man from his world of illusion. Instead of becoming a trap his wealth becomes a tool. Money can do great good if we see the source of all good gifts. Jesus spends a lot of time talking about money. It's amazing if we recognize who our money belongs to, other parts of our lives fall into right order. Those struggles with sins of the tongue, lust and envy suddenly don't seem so overwhelming.

As we bring the readings from James to a conclusion, I encourage you to find your Bible and read the whole letter. It takes about fifteen minutes, maybe a half hour to do it slowly, stopping at the parts that most speak to you.

I invite you today to take home the responsorial verse: The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart. Amen.


Spanish Version

From Archives (26th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2015: Discernment of Spirits Week 5: Keeping Focus
2012: Spiritual War
2009: Gehenna
2006: Whoever Is Not Against Us
2003: Giving and Taking Scandal
2000: False Comfort

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Fr. Frank Schuster
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