How much is enough? How much is too much? What controls your life? Are you happy with the values you have placed in your life? These and other haunting questions lurk behind the readings and theme for today's Liturgy.
J.D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) started what was then known as the Standard Oil Company. He had become the world's richest man and the first billionaire. He spent the last 40 years of his life establishing programs affecting the world of medicine, education, and scientific research. He died at the age of 98 having had a great impact on society.
On the other hand the famous musician Liberace had become the highest paid performer in the world. At the height of his popularity he netted 5 million dollars per year and spent it on such lavish expenses as having a replica of Michelangelo's Creation of Man painted on the ceiling of his bedroom. When he died in 1987, he left behind 8 overloaded warehouses full of stuff that could not fit into any of his 5 fully furnished mansions.
Others in this day including Bill Gates and his wife; Warren Buffet; and Oprah Winfrey; have contributed large sums of their money for charitable causes.
My father always said, "You can not stop the clock of time". How much time we each have is unknown. What we chose to do with the time we do have is our choice and no one else's.
We hear Jesus telling the people the parable of the person with great wealth and the person's desire not to share but to build even bigger barns for the storage of the wealth---in this case the grain he has in his possession.
Today that may be similar to playing the stock market and the investment game. Is all of this centered on the issue of greed in our life? Jack Shea reminds us that greed takes on many forms in the sense that it has many objects. It can be centered on money, fame, power etc. But the appetite of greed is always the same: it eats but remains hungry. A person can not be satisfied by the acquisition of material objects. They always need more and when they get more they are not satisfied. Greed is an endless search for more that always leaves the person experiencing lack rather than fulfillment.
Once greed is unleashed in your life its energy is hard to curb. Jesus reminds us to "be on guard" against this pending danger. Greed is always self defeating because of its ultimate goal. Greed projects onto the object of the greed power it does not have. The object of the greed must give or secure life. Life can not be satisfied by accumulating any "thing".
St. Paul in the second reading this morning reminds us that greed is idolatry.
You fool, "this night your very life will be demanded of you". When I was on-call recently the pager went off at 11:02 p.m. I was sound asleep as we go to bed early. "Code yellow category A in the E.D." I was told. When I arrived I found the 38 year old man struggling for his life and his distraught wife was in the "family room". He was brought to the E.D. unconscious. He was reacting to a massive over dose of heroin and cocaine. She was telling me that they were to sign papers to close on another home the next day. She told me their current home is a 3 storey, 6 bedrooms 5 bath home in a very exclusive area of town. They also have a home in an exclusive area in Florida. So this new home would make their 3rd home. They have 2 children. The E.D. doctor was waiting for me to get there to tell his wife of the seriousness of the over dose. His heart was functioning at 30% of normal; an EEG had shown minimal brain activity. If he survives he may be in a vegetative state the rest of his life. "You fool, this night your very life will be demanded of you".
We have all seen the people waiting in line to buy the most recent i-pod which stores 1,000 songs. Of course it is obsolete the day you buy it because the newest model will be on the market by Christmas.
I feel the message today centers around re-evaluating our very life, the values we have, and how we use the gifts we have been given. Can you get to the point where you can look yourself in the mirror and say, "There is no 'thing' I need. The interviewer asked the wealthy philanthropist why they made such huge donations to charitable causes. The response was, "When I get to heaven Jesus will say to me 'what did you do with all I gave you'".
So what will your answer be to the same question?