Eccl 1:2, 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21
Today's Reading from the Gospel of Luke teaches us that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. A rich and meaningful life cannot be drawn out of an abundance of material possessions.
The first reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “All is vanity”.
Sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest.
Jesus has explained this in a very simple parable: 'The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this; I will pull down my barns and buildlarger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'
But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.'"
At the end of his teaching, Jesus places the invitation before his audience to give up treasures of this world in order to build treasures in heaven. The lesson from the Gospel is obvious. To be in this world and not of it, to collect the necessary goods of this world by honest labour and yet remain detached from them. The better part of our time is spent in making a living, providing necessary material things for ourselves and our families. And obviously there is nothing wrong with that. What Quoheleth calls vanity and what Jesus condemns is the obsession with money.
That rich man in the parable thinks only of himself. He even talks about himself and to himself. He works for himself and stores food for himself. It is mean! It is lonely! It is a distorted worldview where he is trapped in a very selfish and isolated world of his own. Jesus warns us against this attitude.
Once a group of 50 people was attending a seminar. Suddenly the speaker stopped and started giving each one a balloon. Each one was asked to write his/her name on it using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and put in another room.
Now these delegates were let in that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name written, within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other, pushing around others and there was utter chaos.
At the end of 5 minutes no one could find their own balloon.
Now each one was asked to randomaly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it.
Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.
The pursuit of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in possessing a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. All possessions are temporary by nature. There is always something new right around the corner. New models, new styles, new improvements, and new features. From clothes and cars to kitchen gadgets and technology, our world moves forward. And we are caught in the offer of the materialistic world.
St. Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for you, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.” Nothing else can really satisfy us, not all the riches, honors, prestige, and power in the world. In addition St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading that immersion in the things of this world can easily tempt us to greed. And that means we run the risk of losing everything like the man in the Gospel parable. St Paul summarized this in the advice: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”