31 July 2016
Ecclesiastes 1.2, 2.21-23
Colossians 3.1-5, 9-11
A certain rich man, who had never married, inherited a large amount of money at the age of 79. He consulted a number of friends who were investment bankers to know where best to invest his money so that he could get the best return. They suggested a number of different options, different companies. Despite all his money, he spent a lot of energy and time worrying about which would give him the most interest on his investment. Whilst he was doing this he died suddenly. Because he was always well off it never seemed to have occurred to him to share with people less well off.
The readings today focus on our priorities and attitudes in life. Nowhere in today’s readings or in the Bible does it say that having possessions is wrong. The question is what importance do we give them in our lives? The first reading today is from the Book of Ecclesiastes. When he says that ‘all is vanity’ he is using the word ‘vanity’ in the sense of ‘illusion’ or ‘mist’. He says that it is an illusion to think that wealth or possessions in themselves can give true happiness and especially if we put them in the place of God so that they become idols. We then act as if we are independent of God.
In the gospel Jesus refuses to get involved in a dispute regarding an inheritance between two brothers. He takes the opportunity to warn people against avarice or greed of any kind. Greed can become an idol because it consists in putting our trust in something other than God. Jesus is not talking only about material possessions. He is talking about anything that can become an idol for us. It might be drugs, drink, sex, work etc. Today computers and modern technology may take up so much of our time that we haven’t time to pray or go to Mass as we used to.
In the parable Jesus speaks about a man who is already rich. He wants to pull down his barns and build bigger ones. It is clear that the focus is on himself. He is self-centred. He doesn’t seem to consider the needs of those less well off. Jesus is saying that riches are a blessing when they are shared and a violation when they are stored up for personal identity or security.
Gandhi, the Indian leader, repeated many centuries later what the early Fathers or theologians of the Church had taught. “Even if it is not stolen, something is to be considered stolen if one keeps it without needing it. The rich possess a great abundance of superfluous things they do not really need and that therefore remain unused and are lost, whilst millions die of hunger because for them there is no food”. Gandhi says clearly what Jesus speaks about in the gospel today. Maybe it is a call for each of us to examine our conscience about what importance our possessions have in our lives. Do we use them for our own needs but also to help others in need?
The other fact about the man in the parable and the man in the story at the beginning was that both acted as if they were God, as if they had control over the length of their lives. No one has any guarantee about how long he/she will live. A friend of mine was always in perfect health and one day without warning at the age of 34 he died suddenly. Could a sudden death not happen to any of us?
Basically the man in the parable was preoccupied with the success of his farming business that it consumed him. It caused him to have a wrong perspective of life. Instead of recognizing and living every moment of his life not knowing what the future would be he begins to plan a long life. So his success had led him to the point that God no longer played a primary and guiding role in his life.
Isn’t it so easy to be distracted by the things of this world? We must call on the Holy Spirit often to prevent this from happening to us. Let us pray to maintain a primary focus on the will of God and not allow success, good management, pleasure etc. to be the cause of neglecting His role in our lives.
The Good News of today’s readings is a gentle reminder that we are here on earth only for a short time and that our true home is in heaven as St.Paul says in the second reading. The real riches that we take with us to heaven are those we have given to the poor or whatever we have shared with others here on earth. Jesus is reminding us of this so that we might have the freedom that gives us a deep peace and joy now. Money can become devalued very quickly. It is the opposite with God. God never becomes devalued! In fact the opposite is true – the more we trust in him and follow his ways with the help of his Spirit the more peace and joy we will have now and later too.
Those who try their best to share with others and are conscious of their call to help those less well off enjoy much peace and joy in their lives.
“Lord Jesus, we thank you for the many ways you have blessed us with. Every good gift comes from our Heavenly Father. Help us to use these gifts in a Christian manner for our own good and for others less well off when this is possible. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA