- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Nestor Iwasiw at the Ukranian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in the District.
In today's Gospel message [Luke 12:16-21], Jesus tells us a parable about a very prosperous man. He worked hard, and as a result of that hard work, he had such an abundant harvest that he had to build new barns in which to store it.
The problem with the rich man was that he was self-centered and only cared for material things, and cared about nothing or no one else. But even worse than this, he neglected his spiritual life. His priorities in life were confused. We saw how he had such a great harvest of grain that he did not even know where to store it at first. He had to build a new storage area to store his grain.
However, spiritually, he was a total pauper. He pursued his extravagant lifestyle. He would eat and drink overabundantly. But in the end, what happened to him? He died. He lost all of the wealth which he had labored all his life to attain. He was left with nothing. He had lost all material goods. He had worked hard and achieved material wealth, while neglecting completely the spiritual wealth which would have been the only thing that mattered after his death.
We need to remember that to work is both good and necessary for our survival. We have our families and ourselves to take care of and to support. Jesus never told us to be lazy and not to work. In His childhood, He would help out Joseph in the carpentry business. St. Paul, in one of his epistles, brags that he never was a freeloader, but rather he had to work for his keep.
What we must focus on is that we literally cannot live by bread alone. We must feed our souls as well. Otherwise, we will suffer the same fate that the rich man did.
Currently, we are in Philip's fast, a time which is known in the Latin Church as Advent. This season of Philip's fast prepares those of us in the Ukranian Catholic Church for the nativity of Jesus Christ. Today's gospel teaches us what is truly important and how we should prepare to greet the newborn Jesus Christ.
During this time of the fast, our preparation should be totally devoted to spiritually preparing ourselves for the real reason for the season: the coming of God in the flesh.
We do this through extra prayer and fasting. We do it through acts of selfless giving, expecting nothing in return. In Jesus' eyes, repentance is not beating our breasts or acknowledging guilt, but trying to become a better person.
God is sending us His only Son. Are we truly properly prepared for this great event? We can prepare ourselves by repentance and confession so that we can offer ourselves as a gift to the newborn king.
When our short time on earth comes to an end, what will our situation be? Will we lose all of our material goods and be left with nothing, or will we be rich with our spiritual wealth? This is dependent on how we live our lives. We must strive to make Christ the center of our lives instead of obsessing about cars, televisions, jewels, clothes and all the rest.
Today's world is structured in such manner that Christmas is a time for receiving presents and decorating trees. K-Mart is advertising a new line of Martha Stewart Christmas items. They include horns, Santas and teddy bears. But the line of decorations does not include even an angel, let alone anything else that might resemble a spiritual hint of the season.
Let this be a time for us to give the baby Jesus some presents such as our unconditional love, as well as generosity, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness to others. In this way we will truly build up our spiritual wealth.
Next week: a sermon at a District congregation

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