The wedding of Princess Diana Spencer, in 1981, was watched by 750 million people. She died in an accident at 36 on August 31, 1997. Her funeral in 1997 was viewed by 2.5 billion people. She was very beautiful and wealthy, yet, unhappy in marriage and died tragically in August at a young age. Five days after Princes Diana died there was another “going home,” that was Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta who died on Oct 4, 1997 at 86. She was a “wise woman,” spending her whole life sharing Christ’s selfless, caring agape love with the down- trodden in the streets of Calcutta. God blessed her sharing love by increasing her 12-member Missionaries of Charity congregation to 3000 serving the poor in 100 countries.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, telling the parable of the foolish rich man, warns the disputing brothers, and us, against all types of greed, because greed takes our life’s focus away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people.
The Jewish rabbis were often asked to settle disputes among their countrymen. They judged cases using the Mosaic Law as given in the Torah. In matters concerning the distribution of property in a family with two children, the Torah granted two-thirds of the wealth to the elder son and one-third to the younger. If there were several sons, the first-born would receive double the inheritance of his younger brothers and would serve as the patriarch of the family and executor of his father’s estate.
In today’s Gospel Jesus refused to be an arbitrator in the property dispute between two brothers. Instead Jesus used the occasion to teach an important lesson in life.
Jesus says God called the greedy rich man a fool because the man thought he would not die soon and that he was not accountable for his riches. He forgot that his wealth had been lent to him by God for sharing with the needy. Jesus tells us that our eternal life does not consist of earthly possessions, so we should share our possessions to gain eternal life.
We need to avoid greedy acquisition of wealth and power because everything and everyone is “here today and gone tomorrow”
According to an old legend, Alexander the Great, commanded that when he died and was carried forth to his grave, his hands should not be wrapped in the burial clothes, as was the custom, but should be left outside so that all might see them, and might see also, that they were empty.
In the brief span of his thirty-three years, Alexander had conquered and possessed the riches of an empire that extended from Greece to India. Yet, in death, his hands were empty; none of his wealth could survive the passage through death.
The parable of the rich fool gives us a warning as well as an invitation. It reminds us that our possessions are merely lent to us by God, and that we are accountable for their use. We must be generous in sharing our time, our treasure, and our talents in Christian stewardship.
Even if we are poor financially, we may be blessed with intelligence, good will, a sense of humor or the ability to console, encourage, inspire and support and help others. God expects us to give our thanks to Him for all these blessings by sharing them with others for His glory.
Our greed takes different shapes and forms. For some it may be the desire for the approval and praise of others. For others it is the uncontrolled desire for power, control or fame.
In 1888, Alfred Nobel picked up a French newspaper and read his own obituary. His brother had died and by mistake, the newspaper printed Alfred’s obituary instead. In it, Alfred Nobel was remembered as the dynamite king, the merchant of death, a person who had amassed a great fortune out of explosives used extensively in wars. Alfred Nobel didn’t like what he read. He set out to make a better name for himself. He established among other things the Nobel Peace Prize, which today continues to honor persons around the world who have championed the cause of peace. Alfred Nobel moved from success to significance.
As greed directs all our energy and attention to fulfilling the self, its objects become our false gods, and they will consume us, unless we become rich in the sight of God. Let us try to become rich in the sight of God and let us try to do some good things for the world by sharing our blessings with the needy people.