What small child doesn’t dream of growing up to be rich so he or she can have everything he or she wants? What adult doesn’t dream of having sufficient resources put aside to assure a secure retirement? Dreaming of having enough isn’t so bad! Focusing all our energy, relationships, and our whole life only on acquiring possessions or wealth is another story. This weekend’s Gospel is going far beyond “you can’t take it with you.” It pointedly reminds us that wealth isn’t everything. In the Gospel, Jesus challenges the crowd to “guard against all greed.” The rich man in the parable judges he has stored up enough possessions to guarantee a good life without worries – or so he thinks. Any reliance on wealth and possessions is pure folly – both worldly possessions and this life are fleeting … temporary. What truly matters is the inheritance that only God can give … the fullness of eternal life. What “matters to God” is spending our life dispossessing ourselves of anything which hinders us from growing into the fullness of life.
On God’s scale of values, the man in the Gospel is foolish because the things of this world are fleeting (see First Reading). The First Reading describes in even greater detail the misfortune which befalls the man in the Gospel parable. According to Qoheleth, laboring for wealth and possessions is not only foolish but results in sorrow, grief, and anxiety. Jesus teaches us that the only things worth acquiring are those that are “rich in what matters to God.” Clearly, in things, possessions, there is no lasting profit. There is only lasting profit in that which leads us to “seek what is above” (Second Reading) because we recognize that “Christ is all in all.” Thus, what really matters to God is that we learn a new set of priorities. The Readings and the Psalm give us a lot of suggestions: wisdom of heart, kindness, joy, gladness, gracious care, putting to death what is “‘earthly,’ putting on a new self … living in the image of our Creator, opening ourselves to the ‘Christ [who] is all and in all.’” In these ways, we are invited to shift to priorities to what matters most: growing into the fullness of life.
It is no wonder that we tend to lose ourselves in possessions – this is so much so easier than pursuing only what matters to God! When we make the effort to reorganize our priorities and keep our sight on God, then we gain what the man in the Gospel never achieved – absolute security in the future. This is a future which is not in barns filled with grain and other earthly goods. This is a future in God! This future is eternal life!
Discipleship requires self-emptying. Dying to our own needs and wants and desires and pleasures is what God wants (see Second Reading). When we so die, we come to see things as God sees them. And when that happens, our needs and desires gradually change as our practical, everyday choices begin to square up with “what matters to God.”
This is not to say that discipleship means that we must give up all our possessions. That is neither practical nor necessary. There is nothing wrong with possessions in themselves and there is everything wrong with poverty, no matter what its cause. All of us have a right to whatever material things we need to pursue a wholesome life. The problem arises when our concern for our possessions or the drive to have more and more is our highest priority. The issue is valuing things appropriately, and then making choices so that our priorities remain clear and are never compromised. Possessions must take second place to “what matters to God.” Emptying ourselves of whatever stands in the way of that value is much more difficult than building bigger barns – but more lasting. Self-emptying leads to eternal glory with God.
May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!