"Our life does not consist in the abundance of possessions"
Have you ever tried to settle a money dispute or an inheritance issue? Inheritance disputes are rarely ever easy to resolve, especially when the relatives or close associates of the deceased benefactor cannot agree on who should get what and who should get the most. Why did Jesus refuse to settle an inheritance dispute between two brothers? He saw that the heart of the issue was not justice or fairness but rather greed and possessiveness.
The ten commandments were summarized into two prohibitions – do not worship false idols and do not covet what belongs to another. It’s the flip side of the two great commandments - love God and love your neighbor. Jesus warned the man who wanted half of his brother’s inheritance to “beware of all covetousness.” To covet is to wish to get wrongfully what another possesses or to begrudge what God has given to another. Jesus restates the commandment “do not covet”, but he also states that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his or her possessions.
August of Hippo (354-430 AD) comments on Jesus’ words to the brother who wanted more:
Greed wants to divide, just as love desires to gather. What is the significance of “guard against all greed,” unless it is “fill yourselves with love”? We, possessing love for our portion, inconvenience the Lord because of our brother just as that man did against his brother, but we do not use the same plea. He said, “Master, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” We say, “Master, tell my brother that he may have my inheritance.”[Sermon 265.9]
Jesus reinforces his point with a parable about a foolish rich man. Why does Jesus call this wealthy landowner a fool? Jesus does not fault the rich man for his industriousness and skill in acquiring wealth, but rather for his egoism and selfishness - it’s mine, all mine, and no one else’s. This parable is similar to the parable of the rich man who refused to give any help to the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich fool had lost the capacity to be concerned for others. His life was consumed with his possessions and his only interests were in himself. His death was the final loss of his soul!
In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus gives a lesson on using material possessions. It is in giving that we receive. Those who are rich towards God receive ample reward - not only in this life - but in eternity as well.
Cyril of Alexandria, a fifth century church father, comments on Jesus’ word to be rich toward God:
It is true that a person’s life is not from one’s possessions or because of having an overabundance. He who is rich toward God is very blessed and has glorious hope. Who is he? Evidently, one who does not love wealth but rather loves virtue, and to whom few things are sufficient. It is one whose hand is open to the needs of the poor, comforting the sorrows of those in poverty according to his means and the utmost of his power. He gathers in the storehouses that are above and lays up treasures in heaven. Such a one shall find the interest of his virtue and the reward of his right and blameless life. [Commentary on Luke, Homily 89]
In this little parable, Jesus probes our heart - where is your treasure? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. What do you treasure above all else?
"Lord Jesus, free my heart from all possessiveness and from coveting what belongs to another. May I desire you alone as the one true treasure worth possessing above all else. Help me to make good use of the material blessings you give me that I may use them generously for your glory and for the good of others.”
First Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
Psalm: Psalms 100:2-5
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
“… for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15
I like gadgets. I like looking for the latest models of laptops, phones etc. For a while, it became a status symbol for me.
I remember the very first time I was going to own a laptop. It was the best one in the market. I was ecstatic.
The euphoria lasted for two weeks. After that, a thinner, faster, lighter version of the same laptop brand was launched. It had a better design, better display and better features. I was crushed, devastated and discombobulated.
I realized that I can never have everything in this life. I can continue to derive my value from the things that I own and feel frustrated every time I see someone having more than me, or I can appreciate the things that I have and be grateful and contented.
Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot. Life is about relationships. Possessions don’t make you truly rich. Relationships do. Relationships don’t just last longer, they last stronger.
So the next time you feel bad for not having material possessions, thank God for the wonderful relationships you have — and feel like a billionaire. Randy Borromeo (email@example.com)
Reflection: Do you value your relationships more than your material possessions?
Dear Lord, thank You for what I have. I may not own much, but I have everything. You are my everything. Teach me to have a grateful heart every day.
St. Maria Bertilla Coscardin, pray for us.
Faith and surrender to the Gospel brings with it a power for transformation that is beyond belief. It does not matter how hard a person tries to be good, the grace of salvation at work within can take them further. This is the power that we deal with when we talk about faith. We will be sorry if we do not open ourselves to it and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from within.
1 Brothers and sisters: You were dead in your transgressions and sins 2 in which you once lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so no one may boast. 10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
R: The Lord made us, we belong to him.
1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; 2serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song. (R) 3 Know that the Lord is God; he made us, his we are; his people, the flock he tends. (R) 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. (R) Give thanks to him; bless his name, 5 for he is good: the Lord, whose kindness endures forever, and his faithfulness, to all generations. (R)
What is your goal in life? Are your dreams confined to the years you will spend here on earth? If so, then you need to think again. We are here on earth for a fraction of the time we will spend in eternity. The choices we make now will have a bearing on whether or not we spend eternity in the presence of God. This is a scary thought if we do not have a vision for eternal life. This is why we must always think beyond our earthly pilgrimage to our eternal destiny.
Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
13 Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” 14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” 15 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.” 16Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 18 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 19 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!” ’20 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?’ 21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
think: We must always think beyond our earthly pilgrimage to our eternal destiny.
READ THE BIBLE IN ONE YEAR Sirach 36-40
RICH IN WHAT MATTERS TO GOD
Contrary to what people might think, the problem of postmodernity is not the people’s attachment to things and possessions. It is the opposite. People now are too detached from their possessions, for one reason — we have become a culture of consumers. In consumerism, William Kavanaugh tells us, the basic issue is not about having more, but about having something else. And so, the endless cycle of shopping till you drop takes place.
Shopping has become a part of the phenomenon called addiction. People become addicted to something different, something unique, something quite unlike what the common masses have — and so the culture of the so-called signature items now rules the roost everywhere. Greed has taken on a new face, and it is not just about accumulating. It is all about being more, being different, being unique, and being a cut above the rest. This entails throwing away what you have so as to have the elusive something else.
The Lord counsels us to be on guard against all greed, but it might just as well be being on guard against cupidity, against unbridled desire, against wanting not just more, but something else — something that the guy next to me doesn’t have. The quantitative aspect does not matter much anymore, but the qualitative, the patently unique and different.
Greed now has shed off its love affair with having possessions that endure, but possessions that are not meant to last. The Gospel parable rings true: “I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.” It almost sounds like, “I will trade off this gadget and get the latest.” But six months later, the same cycle happens all over again.
In the final analysis, whether we hold on to our possessions or throw them away at will after a short period of time, the exact same principle of greed is at work. The only difference is that the focus is not on something per se, but on something else.
It may do us good to shift our focus on being “rich in what matters to God.”Fr. Chito Dimaranan, SDB
REFLECTION QUESTION: Do you have a tendency to accumulate possessions? How attached are you to them?
Tame my desires, Lord, that I may not be overly materialistic. Help me to focus more on what matters to You.