Sunday, July 31, 2016

Make Sure that You’re Planning FAR ENOUGH Ahead

(Eighteenth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on July 31, 2016 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Luke 12: 13-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily,click here: Eighteenth Sunday 2016]

We’re often told that we should “Plan ahead.”

“You should plan ahead for your child’s education.”
“You should plan ahead for your medical care.”
“You should plan ahead for emergencies.”
“You should plan ahead for a hurricane.”
“You should plan ahead for your retirement.”

Planning ahead is normally a good thing—a very good thing.  It’s something we’re commended for.  It’s a sign of the fact that we’re taking personal responsibility for our lives.  It’s also an act (or a series of actions) through which we exercise a very important virtue: the virtue of prudence.  Given the uncertainties of life on planet earth, it’s prudent for a person to plan ahead.  Planning ahead can even be a moral mandate in certain circumstances.  Children, for example, need parents who will plan ahead for them in a responsible manner—especially when they’re very young.  That’s why many parents set up college funds for their children right after birth!  Given the ridiculous costs associated with getting a college education these days (and it’s probably only going to get worse), good parents know they need to plan ahead for their children NOW—not 18 years down the road. 

So I ask you, if planning ahead is such a good thing, why was Jesus so critical of the man in today’s gospel parable—this wealthy man who had an abundant harvest?  Shouldn’t the guy have been commended for working so hard?  Shouldn’t Jesus have praised him for being so industrious, and for doing such a great job of planning ahead? 

After all, it sounds like he was set for life!  He didn’t even need an IRA or 401(k)—or to buy any gold from Lear Capital!

So what was the problem?

Well, believe it or not, I don’t think the issue for Jesus was that the man had planned ahead—I don’t think that was the problem at all.  I believe the problem that Jesus had with this man was that the guy hadn’t planned far enough ahead!  He was planning ahead for the next 40 or 50 years—or for however long he expected to live in this world, but his existence was not going to come to an end with his physical death.  After his death—which came a lot sooner than he expected—he was going to have to face Almighty God in judgment, and after being judged by the Lord he was going to face eternity.  And from what Jesus says here it doesn’t sound like this man was ready for those experiences, since his life was ruled by greed and not by charity.  He was rich in worldly treasure but not rich in what matters to God.

The lesson here for us is simple.  The Lord is saying to each of us today, “Yes, make sure that you plan ahead in all the ways that you need to plan ahead in your earthly life, but in the process always make sure that you are planning far enough ahead.”

In other words, we need to make sure that we’re always planning ahead for God’s merciful judgment—so that, whenever it comes (today or many years from now) we will be ready.

And how, exactly, do we do that?  How do we plan ahead for judgment?

We plan ahead, first of all, by striving to grow in our relationship with the Lord every day (something Fr. Najim has been talking a lot about in recent weeks).  We plan ahead by taking our Catholic Faith seriously and by applying it to every aspect of our lives—including our conduct at home and at work, and including our political views.  We plan ahead by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, by practicing forgiveness, and by being concerned for those less fortunate than we are (something the rich man in this parable was not).

And we plan ahead by repenting when we fail in these areas—which we all do at times.  On that note, do you remember my “Mercy Equation” that I shared with you when the Jubilee Year of Mercy began last December?

Recognition + Repentance = Reception.

That equation has an application in this context. 

If we recognize our sins (and the fact that Jesus died for them), and then sincerely repent of those sins we will receive mercy from the Lord.

And receiving that mercy is an absolute necessity if we want to plan ahead properly for God’s judgment—that is to say, if we want to go to heaven.

I’ve often said, if we want to live life successfully forwards (which I think we all do), then we need to think backwards.  In other words, we have to begin by thinking about the goal we want to attain, and then reflect back on the steps we need to take to get to that goal from wherever we’re at right now.

Which is the principle that should guide every decision we make in this life—including the decision to repent of our sins.  We should ask ourself, “Is this decision going to bring me one step closer to my goal (which is heaven, of course), or will it take me down another road to another place—a place where I definitely don’t want to go?

The rich man in this parable didn’t think of that question when he made the decision to greedily store up his harvest for himself and forget about everyone else.

That night, when he took his final breath and met the Lord face-to-face, I’m sure he wished he had done otherwise.

He planned ahead for a lot of things.  Unfortunately, however, he failed to plan ahead for the most important thing of all, the judgment of God.

He planned ahead, but he didn’t plan far enough ahead.

My prayer at this Mass is that each and every one of us in this church today will learn from the rich man’s mistake.