Monday, October 19, 2009

The Things You Have Accumulated, To Whom Will They Belong?

Today’s First Reading is taken from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (4:20-25):

From the viewpoint of human nature, it was impossible for Abraham to have children. He was elderly, and Sarah his wife was long past the age of childbearing. But when the LORD promised that he would have a son, he put his faith in God, convinced that God had the power to do what he had promised. This is why Paul writes that his faith in God “was credited to him as righteousness.”

Paul affirms it is not only Abraham whose faith in God will be credited as righteousness, but everyone who believes in him, who raised Jesus from the dead. The Pharisees and the Temple priests handed Jesus over to Pilate, who ordered that Jesus be executed by crucifixion. Both the religious and political authorities in Jerusalem believed that they were in control of the situation. The truth, though, is that these events were a part of God’s plan to redeem the children of Adam and Eve from sin. “God did not spare his own son, but gave him up for our sake” (Romans 8:32). If we have faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and act accordingly, striving to cooperate with the graces we are granted to grow in grace, and to trust in the divine mercy to forgive us when we stray from the path of righteousness, we reap the benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus, who was handed over to pay the price of our transgressions, and who was raised from the dead so that we might share in a like resurrection

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from Luke (12:13-21):

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Rabbi, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” It is possible that this man was a younger son. According to the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 21:17), the oldest son receives the lion’s share of the inheritance, and the younger sons receive less. Jesus answers with a question: “Friend, who appointed me as judge or arbiter between you?” Then, he takes advantage of the opportunity to teach the people about the danger of greed, by telling them a parable:

"There was a wealthy man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods, And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you; and the things you have accumulated, to whom will they belong?”

Jesus concludes: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich in what matters to God."

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Luke’s gospel often focuses on the pursuit of wealth as an obstacle to spiritual growth. It is no surprise that many of those who have a generous share of this world’s goods want more. It seems that they don’t own what they have, what they have owns them. Greed is a bottomless pit; no matter how much you put in, it never gets filled. Misers live miserable lives. They die rich, and their wealth goes to others who did nothing to earn it.

How is wealth measured? Typically, we consider how much we have. But the saints suggest that we ought to measure how much we give away. Rich people who spend their lives accumulating money and property, show how poor they feel. People who are content with who they are don’t waste their time like that.

How is greed measured? It can’t be done with any precision, but there are some telling indications. Have you ever noticed that the value of a sum of money varies depending on whether you are getting it, or giving it away? The amount remains the same; the difference is your attitude. If you could measure that attitude, it would be your “greed index.”

Why would we want to know how greedy we are? For the same reason that we would rather look in a real mirror than in a carnival mirror. We want to know the truth about ourselves, however ugly it might be. “The truth will set you free,” Jesus said (John 8:32). Self-flattery is really self-delusion.

Once upon a time, a rich man visited a monastery and offered a gift of money to the Abbot. The Abbot answered, “No, thank you. We have enough now.” The man was taken aback. Then he said, “I just learned how poor I am. I don’t have anything to give you but money.” Wealth doesn’t make you rich; it is a poor substitute for peace of mind. Real wealth is a generous spirit. To experience the freedom and the joy of giving, it is not enough to think about it: you have to do it. Freely you have received; freely you should give (Matthew 10:8).

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