Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief is his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.(P) The word of the Lord.
You turn man back to dust, saying, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. (R)
You make an end of them in their sleep; the next morning they are like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades. (R)
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! (R)
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands. (R)
Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.(P) The word of the Lord.
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me." He replied to him, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?" Then he said to the crowd, "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions."
Then he told them a parable. "There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, "What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?" And he said, "This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years; rest, eat, drink, be merry!"" But God said to him, "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?" Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One day a burglar was brought before a judge for trial. The man had already been charged with burglary five times and found guilty each time. Before sentencing him the judge said, "You are here for the sixth time. You seem to be a professional burglar. Do you have anything to say?" The burglar said, "You ask me why I keep committing the same crime? Well, your honor, it is like this. The more a man has, the more a man wants." The judge replied, "Is that so? You say "the more a man has, the more a man wants." Well, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I am sentencing you to seven years in jail. How many more would you like?"
The burglar, the man who asked Jesus to help him settle the inheritance dispute with his brother and the rich farmer we hear about in today's gospel and so many others among us are obsessed with the desire for possessions. The Bible describes greed as one of the seven deadly sins. The world around us keeps telling us to plan ahead and accumulate as much wealth as possible for a comfortable and secure life. But in today's gospel Jesus sets before us the ways of God to counter the ways of the world. Accumulation of wealth may appear to be prudent and wise but Jesus deems it foolish and dangerous because Jesus says in today's gospel, "one's life does not consist of possessions".
As Jesus was preaching to the people about fear and anxiety, a man asked Jesus to arbitrate the inheritance dispute between him and his brother. But Jesus wanted to help him make peace with God rather than with his brother. Even though he was demanding for his own fair share of the inheritance Jesus wanted him to know that life is about giving not getting, sharing not having more. Jesus' message was simple and direct to all who were listening to him. He warned them against all kinds of greed. Desire for more seems to be the root cause of greed. The man who sought Jesus had a strong desire to acquire more wealth without any thought of whether or not he needed them. He was more concerned about what he had on earth than what he would have in heaven.
So Jesus warned him and others against their desire for more earthly possessions and told them a parable to illustrate the point that they must instead use their possessions to pursue a generous and joyful life, a life that is rich toward God. The farmer in the parable was blessed with rich harvest but wanted to store all of it for himself and fantasized what he would do with it. He talked to himself, "What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest? This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years; rest, eat, drink and be merry."
Notice how many times he used "I" and "my". He shut out everyone and everything else from his life. He definitely did not work nor harvest the crops himself. The harvest was plentiful also because of the soil and favorable weather. But he did not think of anyone else let alone God. He was preoccupied with his possessions. He maximized his own pleasure. Greed took hold of his life. It all came to an end when God said to him, "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?"
In the scriptures the word fool refers to those people who live their lives as if there were no God and everything including their physical life is under their control. In Psalm (14:1) it says, "The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." Their deeds are corrupt and vile, not one of them does right". In the book of Sirach/Ecclesiasticus (22:13) the writer calls on us not to follow the fools, "Do not waste many words on the stupid, do not go near a dolt, an idiot. Beware of him, or you will have trouble and be tainted by him, keep away from him, and you will have peace of mind and not be exasperated by his folly".
Many among of us could be more foolish than the rich fool Jesus speaks of in the parable. First of all, we must know that it's not wrong for us to enjoy the things of this world. The possessions are not evil in themselves and neither are the people who have them. But it is dangerous though, when we allow them to become too important. The desire for possessions has the capacity to make us arrogant, dishonest, exploitative and self-seeking. It has the power to block God out of the picture and ignore the needs of the neighbor, and it can obscure us from the glory of God. Therefore, let us be honest. We all, whether we are rich or poor, single or married, priest or lay people, have the tendency to want more. The more we have the more we want. The appetite for more possessions is never satisfied. We are never content. Today's gospel is a reminder to protect ourselves from the strong desire for more and more possessions. Let us keep ourselves from the evils and sins that greed can lead to. How many families, marriages, relationships have been destroyed because of our greed for material possessions? Let us beware of the great temptation to put our faith and trust in them rather than in God. As Saint Paul says in today's second reading Colossians (3:5), let us "put to death whatever earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry".
Second, let us be thankful to God for all His many blessings. It's important to acknowledge that all the things we have in this world come from God and in every possession there is a contribution from another human being. We are blessed so that we might be a blessing to others. Let us be generous and willing to share the excess we have with those who are less fortunate.
Third, our relationship with God is much more important than our possessions. God knows quite well what's deep within our human heart; He knows that in spite of our piety and devotion to him we are attached to the pleasures of the flesh, money, power, prestige, and possessions. Sometimes we measure our self-worth and others by how much we have or how many things we own or how we look. We live in a world of illusion; vanity of vanities as the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes calls it. Let us examine today how we shut ourselves from God and others because of our own greed. Let us ask God for forgiveness and mercy. As Saint Paul says today in his letter to the Colossians, let us "seek the things that are above. Let us set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."(P) Amen.
God Bless You!