The lessons of today’s scripture are so evident. We know we can’t take anything with us when we die. We know we’ve never seen a Brink’s truck following a hearse. Yet we are surrounded by voices telling us to shop, shop, and shop. The message is accumulate. Our success, our worth is measured by what we possess whether it is big full barns, bank accounts or successful investment portfolios.
I had a funeral a number of years ago. It was for a C and E Catholic – Christmas and Easter. A nephew gave a eulogy at the Mass. He told of his uncle’s career in the construction business and all the projects in which he was involved and all the properties he owned. He’d built up his own little empire. He was so proud of his uncle’s accomplishments. When we arrived at the grave site I thought, ‘the only real estate he owns now is this 6x6x4 hole in the ground.’ I made the judgment his life wasn’t about storing up treasurers in heaven.
Today’s parable was the result of the request of someone in the crowd asking Jesus “tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” You know, there is nothing like a will to divide a family and bring out the worst in people.
We’re all familiar with today’s gospel. It brings us up short. We know that our worth does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Our worth depends on our own sense of integrity before God and others. We all know that but do we know that?
We’ve all heard the questions: do you own the car or does the car own you? Do you own the cottage or does it own you? Do you own the business or does the business own you?
We are rich, maybe someday we will have money.
The rich fool is a man who lived his life without reference to God and was caught in the toils of futility and meaninglessness. He lived his life as if God didn’t exist. He was the centre of his whole world. God blessed him with this great harvest. What was he to do? Being a good business man he looked ahead. He’d build bigger barns and play the options. If he was lucky maybe next year’s crop would fail and he could make a big profit off his bunker crop. He lived his life without reference to God or his neighbours. His life was all about himself. When he asked himself the question ‘what shall I do with this windfall’ it never enters his mind to say “I will feed the hungry, I will open my barns and call in all the poor. I will imitate Joseph in proclaiming my good will toward everyone. I will issue the generous invitation: ‘Let anyone who lacks bread come to me. You shall share, each according to need, in the good things God has given me.’”
Someone wrote these very wise words to help us as we reflect on today’s parable; ‘first, it is good to avoid a number of things: To begin with, we must never idealize poverty and see wealth as a bad thing in itself. God is rich, not poor, and heaven will not be a place of poverty. Poverty is something to be overcome, eradicated. The poor don’t enjoy being poor.’
I heard this story a long time ago, it is a bit corny but its message is for real. A newly married couple were out for a walk one evening and friends of theirs drove by in a classy new car. They waved to each other. The young husband, who could barely make ends meet, said to his wife, “just you wait, one day we’ll be rich too.” She replied, “honey we are rich maybe someday we will have money.”
Think of this, good people: we are rich with or without money.
Look at our spouse, look at our children, look at a trusted friend – we are rich. Think of our own health, our ability to walk, go to work, see, talk, remember – we are rich. Think of the faith we share knowing we are loved unconditionally for all our faults and failings. We are rich. These are the realities that are the sources of our wealth. Maybe someday we will have money.
Whatever shape or form our riches take may we always remember that they are meant to be shared with those who have less. We are to open the doors of our own full barns and share our blessings with others. In that way we will be rich before God.