18th SOT – Luke 12:13-21
The other day I saw Five-year old girl fighting over a toy with her three-year old brother. She said, ‘What’s mine is mine.” We begin our training early on in life. “What’s mine is mine”. When we grow up we say I will use my money, talent, treasure and my fortune on what I think is best; AND I think I’m the best.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in a greedy, selfish and self-centered world! Asking the Lord the blessing for a spirit of sharing, generosity and sacrifice, let us celebrate this Eucharist!
This Sunday the Lord is inviting us to reflect on money, wealth and possessions. According to the Bible money is the root cause of all evil. And material possession is the number one stumbling block in our journey to heaven. Having said let’s look at the richest people on the planet today? They are:
- Jeff Bezos.
- Bill Gates.
- Warren Buffett.
- Bernard Arnault.
- Amancio Ortega.
The list goes on and on….
Today I have a question for you! How do you calculate your wealth? Usually people calculate wealth by checking how much we have and how much we earn. But the saints and great people tell us we should calculate it by checking how much we have given away. Because they learned that the psychology of possession is full of contradictions. If you collect a million dollar, are you happy then? The chances are that you are not; the collecting has done something to you, it has captured your mind and imagination; you want to continue collecting; you have become a collector, just warming to the task. So you try to collect another million and another. You will never finish collecting. What is it all about? What is it for? What are you adding to yourself? You are adding zeros! What is the difference between one million and ten million? Just another zero! What a way to cheat oneself! – So much work for zero! Instead, be a giver! The Gospel tells us! Know the joy of giving. This you will know only by doing it, not by thinking about it.
A priest friend of mine once said that Luke 12:19 is the most obeyed verse in the Bible. “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” However, God’s reaction to those who live out this verse is: “You fool! The Lord does not consider the “good life” of relaxation and enjoyment to be that good. This comes as a shock to many of us who save and spend money for entertainment, relaxation, and enjoyment. Therefore today’s Gospel reading is like a bomb which would destroy our mind set if we let it explode by believing it. The frightening truth is that, if we don’t do it now, life itself will eventually do it to us.
Almost a year ago, I had the opportunity to assist a rich man who was dying. It was clear to me that he didn’t practice his faith. He was dying as a desperate man. The family members were fighting for his wealth just in front of him. He was unhappy, fearful and empty. After spending 85 years of his life on collecting wealth he had nothing but very faded memories of feeling good and a few unsatisfying possessions, accompanied by a few compulsions and frustrations. And finally he died shaking and shivering like a loser.
The speaker of first reading, Qoheleth, which means “the Preacher,” echoes the sentiment of Jesus in the Gospel, Vanity of vanities, All things are vanity!” All things are vanity. King Solomon, who is credited with writing the book of Ecclesiastes, was one of the richest people in history (1 Kgs 10:14ff). He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines (1 Kgs 11:3). Even Bill gates may not be able to afford that many. After been there and done that he is teaching a lesson to humanity! Everything and everyone is “here today and gone tomorrow.” Therefore, the meaning of life cannot be found in possessions. The great biblical saying, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” King Solomon could get anything he wanted any time he wanted. Many people today are trying hard to become more like Solomon. They want to be able to relax “for years to come,” “eat heartily, drink well,” and enjoy themselves (Lk 12:19). Solomon, who ought to know, says they are fools (Lk 12:20), for “all things are vanity!” (Eccl 1:2)
Why did Jesus call the rich man a fool? Traditional Jewish good works included prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Blessed with an excellent harvest, the rich landowner in Jesus’ parable did the opposite of giving alms. Instead of thanking God and sharing with the hungry, he gave himself over to a pagan orgy – “eat, drink and be merry.” Jesus called him a fool because 1) “He never saw beyond himself.” He was focused on himself and was selfish to the core. 2) The foolish rich man “never saw beyond this world.” He was punished not for anything wrong he did, but for the good he failed to do. It was his acts of omission rather than of commission that prompted God to cut short his life. 3) He failed to become “rich in what matters to God.” He was not thankful to God for His blessings; instead, he considered them as solely the fruit of his own labor. He also failed in his stewardship duties – the returning to God of His portion in paying his tithe. He did not recognize his possessions as loan from God, given to him to share with others. Fourth, he was taken up with worries or anxieties about his wealth. He was starving to death spiritually in the midst of God’s abundance.
After listening to me today you would say “father I am neither rich nor greedy. So what is my problem? 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. For still others greed takes the form of excessive and sinful indulgence in eating, drinking, gambling, drugs or sexual activities. Greed also diverts our life away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people. 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.
Today I want you to think: Are you a fool in the sight of Jesus? If you are a fool, today’s gospel is an invitation for you. The Lord wants His children to be rich, not for themselves, but rich in what matters to Him. To be rich in what matters to God, we must:
- not live to “Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy” ourselves (Lk 12:19), but take up our daily crosses (Lk 9:23) and live for love of God.