Today’s first reading and the gospel really speak for themselves. We get the message but do we really internalize it. We can see it’s ‘right on’ for people we know but do we apply it to ourselves and our lifestyles.
Years ago we were promised that all this new technology coming down the line would free us up for more leisure time. I remember reading an article on how people have to prepare themselves on how to wisely use all their leisure time that would be theirs in the future. Today we can honestly ask, “What leisure time”? There was something on the radio the other day about the need to take at least a full week’s vacation if we are to benefit from time off. The idea of taking every Friday off through the summer instead of one or two weeks is really not beneficial. We need to take a break, to take a rest. The excuse most people give for not taking time off is that when they come back to work they come back to a full desk worth of work and hundreds of e-mails to be answered.
Vanity of vanities – what do mortals get from all the toil and strain for which they toil under the sun? For all their days are filled with pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest.” Do these words resonate with you? Someone wrote that the word vanity is meant to describe a lifestyle, a mind set, a relationship that is empty of purpose or meaning – it’s like a vapor or a mist – no substance.
And in the gospel Jesus asks the question, “and for what”? Whatever material possessions we amass in life, whatever financial security – we die and then there’s the will. I’ve mentioned it before, there is nothing like a will to divide a family, to bring out the worst in people. The best will ever written was, ‘being of sound mind and body, I spent it all, you pay for the funeral.’
I’d like to tell you a story about a safety deposit box. A good man died. He had two daughters. He thought he wrote a fair will and that they would be satisfied with and respect his will. Not so. For whatever reason, one daughter, in fact the one who had the least to do with her father, thought she deserved more and gave the executor nothing but grief. In the midst of settling everything they found a key to a safety deposit box. What could possibly be in it? The daughter who thought she had been hard done by was sure her father had stashed away a lot of cash. Since she lived out of the country she hired a lawyer to be present when the executor opened the box. She wanted her interests protected. Well the day came to open the box – no cash, no jewelry. Photos of the two girls as children, drawing they had done in kindergarten that had once decorated the fridge door and their adoption papers. These were their father’s treasure. But as the saying goes, “one man’s gold is another man’s junk.” His greedy daughter was not the least bit interested in her father’s gold. Vanity of vanities.
The story Jesus tells of the foolish man with his every expanding appetite for bigger and better barns speaks to anyone of us who imagines “I am somebody because of all that I have.” Every day we are condition to be consumers, never satisfied with what is enough but always lured to needing the biggest, the best, the fastest, the costliest, the handiest, the latest, anything and everything that will help us feel a ‘cut above the rest.’ Vanities of vanities
I like to tell the story of the young newly married couple who were out for a walk one evening. Friends of theirs drove by in a beautiful new car. They waved at each other and the young man looked with envy at that car. He could hardly afford a bicycle. He said to his new bride, ‘don’t worry honey, someday we’ll be rich too.’ Every so wisely she answered, ‘we are rich, maybe someday we’ll have money.’
If you want to see your gold, your treasure, look at your spouse, look at you children, consider your health, and appreciate your Catholic faith that teaches you, “Before the world began God chose us in Christ to be His adopted sons and daughters.”
As we continue to celebrate this Mass, we can pray for ourselves and for each other for the grace to know where our true wealth is to be found. We are all rich with family, friends and faith. Maybe someday we’ll have money.