• Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 • Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 • Luke 12:13-21 • 18 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Scripture Readings: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 08.04.2013
I have a nice little Swiss cowbell attached to the handle-bars of my bicycle. It alerts pedestrians and other cyclists to my presence. While riding my bicycle along the Clark Fork River, in addition to my bell, I usually shout out in a moderate tone, “I am passing on your left!” Almost inevitably, when pedestrians, singly or in a small group hear my warning: “I am passing on your left,” they immediately turn to their right, and move to their left. That response amazes me! What prompts such a reaction? My totally unscientific conclusion is that surprise, fear or anxieties determine many of our responses to life.
With that in mind please join me in considering the gospel of today. Apparently brothers were disputing details about their family inheritance. In response Jesus said, “take care. Life does not consist of one’s possessions.” Then he told the simple parable. The wealthy landowner’s crop is so abundant that he decides to build bigger barns “and there I will store my grain and my goods.”
This little parable is about “hoarding.” I have seen television programs that report on the behavior of “hoarders.” I don’t know what actually classifies someone as a “hoarder.” Some folks accumulate closets full of breakfast cereal. When moving my own mother out of our family home in Anaconda, we found 72 boxes of Jell-o and many boxes of cake mix. That is small time!
I have an inclination to “save” plastic bags. A true “hoarder” fills his/her home with stacks of newspapers or magazines or some other totally unexplainable collection of items. S/he stands in the middle of his/her accumulated “treasure”, overwhelmed and unable to let go.
My parents survived the Great Depression of the nineteen-twenties. Since I was a little boy they taught me to save; to be ready for a rainy day. Your parents probably gave you the same advice. That is good advice. “When you have a regular income, set some aside so when you no longer have a steady income you will still be able to provide for yourself.”
As a result of our economic discipline, and because we are the fortunate beneficiaries of living in a time of great prosperity, most of us probably have money in a savings account, perhaps some stocks or bonds. In addition to our residence, some of us may own income property. Most of our closets or basements are full of stuff. You may have a garage or storage shed full of stuff.
That rich landowner did not realize he is walled-in by his possessions. It seems his concerns are limited to self: his own welfare, his wealth, his property, his own life. He has no thought for the peasants who work his land and apparently knows nothing of friendship, generous love, joy and solidarity! If this is true, he is a prisoner of a way of thinking that dehumanizes him. He increases his wealth, but diminishes and impoverishes his life.
Perhaps this parable isn’t about what we have but how we hold it. Our culture of consumption can confuse us about what is important in life. Recall the recent and ongoing world economic crisis. That crisis is the result of a widespread goal of accumulating unlimited wealth. A few accumulated enormous wealth while those stuck in poverty and hunger are overlooked and forgotten. So engage in financial planning that will assure you will be able to provide for yourself. But don’t allow surprise, fear or anxieties determine the responses of your life. Live with your hands and hearts open to others.
I think a short story by Leo Tolstoy is worth pondering along with this gospel text. The title of his short story is “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” and this is a brief summary. A peasant makes a deal – for 1,000 rubles, he can have all the land he can circle in one day. But if he does not make it back to the starting point by sunset, he will lose his money and receive no land. In a thrilling finish to the story, the peasant is racing against the setting sun. He was greedy and tried to cover too much area. He drops dead from exhaustion just short of the finish line. The peasant is buried in an ordinary grave, only six feet long. “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”