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God or Greed


“You can’t have everything…. Where would you put it?” ~ Steven Wright

“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” These are the words of Qoheleth in today’s 1st Reading from Ecclesiastes (1:2, 2:21-23), the operative word here I would submit being “things.” As Hall of Fame football player Deion Sanders once said, perhaps having learned it first hand, “It’s a big mistake to love things. Because things can’t love you back.”

Qoheleth goes on to bemoan the fact that “….one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet another who has not labored over it, he must leave property,” calling this injustice a “great misfortune.” He concludes today’s passage discussing a few of life’s other maladies, including sorrow, grief, and the man-made affliction of anxiety

Some may view this passage as the bitter ramblings of a jaded, presumably older man, but it can also be used as an opportunity to re-assess our priorities in an effort to see if our sights are properly fixed on eternity. Coming to grips with the fact that we are but mere mortals and our earthly possessions, whether they be ill-gotten, inherited, or hard-earned, stay behind when we go off to our eternal fate This makes it the perfect lead-in to today’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21), our 2nd Reading too (Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11).

In the Parable of the Rich Fool ~ God’s word, not mine ~ (Luke 12:20), we encounter the wildly successful and subsequently wealthy farmer whose land yielded a breathtaking harvest. Almost dumbstruck, he wonders aloud what he shall do with such a bountiful crop. He concludes that he should tear down his pre-existing barns, building bigger ones in their place in order to store his grain and other goods. Unfortunately for him however, death would be his fate that night, and God essentially asks the same question of the rich fool that Qoheleth rhetorically poses in our 1st Reading; The things that you have prepared, to whom shall they belong?

The topic of Earthly riches was certainly front and center this week, as the Mega Millions Jackpot eclipsed $1.1 Billion (yes, with a “B”) this week. I’m no economist but I have to think that figure would eclipse the GDP of a good number of countries. What would a person do with $1.1 Billion in his or her pocket? Buy more pockets I would imagine. I jumped in of course, chipping in with my fellow co-workers for a block of tickets. After all, if they were to win, imagine how silly I’d feel being the only one at work on Monday, not to mention all the training I’d have to conduct as the lone subject matter expert remaining? If any of my co-workers happen to be reading this, they’re surely thinking that I’m taking liberties with the term “subject matter expert” but I digress. Suffice to say, we’re already dealing with a rich fool in this Sunday’s Gospel. I didn’t want to emerge as the poor fool.

Having said that though, I’m not sure I’d want to win the lottery. I suppose that puts me in the extreme minority, but history tells us that the lives of most lottery winners proceed to quickly go up in flames. I’m under no illusions that I would be any different. Jesus teaches us that it is not money that is the root of all evil, but instead the love of money that is the root of all evil. To have money is not a bad thing. But it can be dangerous. I have in turn come to realize that we should not only take time to thank God for the things we have, we should also be grateful for the things we don’t have.

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“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This is the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 70, chosen for this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It’s clear that the rich fool in today’s parable did indeed harden his heart to God’s call for him to be more generous and charitable, to be more caring and compassionate towards the plight of others. We know that God called him, as he does all of us, over and over. Many are familiar with the popular book series God Calling. God does call, this we know, but it’s up to each of one of us to pick up the proverbial phone.

Saint Paul in today’s previously aforementioned 2nd Reading from Colossians calls us to “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly.” This is a call to humility and faith. In eschewing earthly riches, we declare our belief that God has far better in store for those who spend their earthly life rooted in generosity and charity while pursuing an intimate relationship with God and His Son.

The riches to be stored in this world are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the cultivation of a charitable heart. To grow in our love of neighbor draws us closer to Christ's Mystical Body, the goal of all those who hope to share in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.

I leave you with the Prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, appropriate not only because today is his Feast but relevant to our call as Christians to surrender to that which is good, true and beautiful. To seek that which is eternal. To seek true riches:

“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of accordingly to your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

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