Saturday, August 3, 2013

"What will you give today?"

I remember a few years ago hearing someone on TV who was trying to get young people to think about making a difference in the world.  He said, “Some people get up in the morning and their first thought is ‘What can I get today?’ and others get up in the morning and their first thought is, ‘What can I give today?’  The second question is the only one that will ever make you happy.”   Reflecting upon our Scripture readings for today, I think Jesus would agree well with this sentiment.

We heard proclaimed in our Gospel passage, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.”  What can I get today or what can I give today? “One’s life does not consist of possessions.”  This would be the very definition of a counter-cultural message as we live in a world that is obsessed with acquiring possessions.  All that matters is getting more and more and more.  More money, bigger house, better job, fancier car, newer toys and so on.  And all for what?  “One’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Things, of course, are nice and even necessary for life. But possessions can assume such an importance in our lives that they become obsessions. When we are so concerned about the things that we can have, so much so that we no longer hear the urgent call of God, then we have got our priorities all mixed up. Such is the man in today’s Gospel who asks Jesus to come and make his brother give him his share of the family inheritance. Jesus isn’t against him having more wealth, nor is he against justice being done between him and his brother. But Jesus is disappointed that after listening to all His preaching, the man’s concern is still about his money. The very Words of Life were falling on deaf ears.

Jesus, fearing there could be more people in the crowd like this man, turns and says to them, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.” To illustrate His point Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. Now when you read the parable you might ask, “What wrong did this man do?” Think about it. He did honest work on his farm and the land gave a bumper crop, so he decided do build larger storage so that he could live the rest of his life on Easy Street. Only he did not know that the rest of his life was less than 24 hours. Jesus uses him to illustrate greed in its many forms.  The man did not take from others.  In this sense, he didn’t do something wrong. His greed lies in what he failed to do.  Instead of using his material wealth for the good of the world, to do the things that God calls us to do – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, etc. – he used it only to better himself.

Pope Francis has talked about this same theme calling it the Cult of Money in our world.  In May he said, “Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of the cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals – that is news. But the many children who don't have food - that's not news. This is grave. We can't rest easy while things are this way. Today, if investments in banks fail, it is a ‘tragedy’ and people say 'what are we going to do?' but if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that's nothing. This is our crisis today. A Church that is poor and for the poor has to fight this mentality."

There is a quote that says, greed is “the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can, while we can, however we can, and then hold on to it hard.” The rich man in our Gospel – and many people in our world today - qualify as examples of this greed. That’s why Jesus was so hard on greed.  That’s why the Holy Father, already in his young papacy, has spoken so frequently about this. Greed is the worship of another god – the god of Money or Materialism or Possessions.

Today’s Gospel invites us to believe in the God of Jesus Christ who alone can give eternal life and not in the god of this world who gives us the false promise of immortality and happiness through the accumulation of trivial and transitory things. “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”  Material wealth, of course, is not bad in and of itself – what can be bad is what we do – or rather what we fail to do with it.  Do we use what we have to make the world a better place? Or do we use what we have merely for our own pleasure? God calls us to realize that the most valuable possession in the world is faith in His Son; and He wants us to be rich in what matters to Him.

So, let us all pray today that we might become rich – rich in the Words, rich in the Will and rich in the Way of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  And let us ask: what will we give today?

May the Lord give you peace. 

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