"Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions". This admonition of Jesus seems pretty straight forward but oh how it is so very hard to implement in our lives. We all must stay alert to ensure greed does not take over our life. Greed takes many forms-it can covet money, fame, compliments, power, etc. But greed is never satisfied as it has a huge appetite. It eats but always remains hungry. Greed always brings you to the desire to have more and not being satisfied the need for even more. One always experiences a lack and is never full. One of the problems of greed is that it projects on to "things" what they can not provide. Greed instills in people the false impression that acquiring "things" will satisfy you. Life does not consist in acquiring objects, or fame of any kind.
At times we hear of people who have obtained tens or hundreds of millions in their life only to end up destitute. They have been scammed by false advice; investments; greed and crime. We hear of what are viewed as common people who have very good professional careers and complain they live from pay-check to pay-check. We simply ask the question, "How can that be?" Be aware of greed as it can easily grow into deadly cancer, metastasize and eventually kill you
In 2008 there was a film produced entitled "The Bucket List". Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson were the stars. They compiled a list of things they wanted to accomplish before they "kicked the bucket". Do you have your "bucket list"? What is on your list? It is not easy to compile, prioritize and edit a bucket list. Some of that difficulty is reflected in today's Gospel where a rich man who placed great meaning on the acquisition of more and more wealth had a rude awakening. Riches had been upper most on his bucket list, but the sudden awareness that his life would soon end confronted him with the sad truth that his riches were not portable. Jesus challenged his disciples with the stark warning, "one's life does not consist of possessions."
Jesus continues with the parable of the rich man who tore down his barns to build larger ones and keep his grain for himself. 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?" The man in the parable, when faced with more than he can possibly use, made the decision to hold on to all he had building bigger barns. He was self-possessed with greed. Greed had now taken over his life; he had a terminal illness which would kill him---your very life will be demanded of you tonight.
However we also see in Matthew's Gospel the parable of the 10 bride's maids. 5 had enough oil for their lamps to keep watch for the bride groom while 5 others did not prepare and did not have enough oil. They went to buy more and while gone the bride groom arrived; went into the wedding reception and the door was locked. They were not allowed in and were told to always be prepared for you do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will come.
Then we hear in Mark 10: 24-26 Jesus saying, "It is easier for a camel to camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter heaven."
And there is the parable of the Master who was going to be gone and left some of his money to the stewards to take care of while he was gone. Some invested wisely and received a good return on their investments. However one did not invest his share at all so he would have it to give the master upon his return. He was criticized and what he had was taken away and given to the one who had more.
Jesus uses money and possessions many times in scripture to teach us. Perhaps the question remains, "Are we teachable?"
I have always viewed this Gospel as troublesome. It challenges me and perhaps each of you to ask the question, "How much do I need?" I am retired and on a fixed income. How much do I need to save for a "rainy day"? How long will I live? Jean and I thought we would grow old together but that was not to be. Will I develop an illness which will demand extensive medical treatment? We hear of those whom I will refer to as the very wealthy---the billionaires. Some of them have taken of their wealth to fund hospitals; grants in the millions for medical research; funded out-reach to the poorest of the poor; not only in our country but in other countries. We are left with the 2 extremes in our society---the very poor and the very rich. It is my impression that most of us in the JOS community do not fit in either of those categories. We are probably in the middle of the crowd financially.
The very poor have no funds to share and some of the very rich do show us how to share. But we are still left with the haunting question, "How much money do I need?" The answer to that question remains in the depths of your soul to be answered by you alone.
Matthew 25: 35-38 is recognized by most where we hear Jesus say: "When I was hungry you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty you gave me to drink; when I was sick and in prison you visited me". When you did this to the least of my brethren you did it to me".
As a faith community JOS has a tremendous record of out-reach to the homeless and those in need-assisting in local food pantries. Our priests celebrate Mass regularly at local nursing homes. A parishioner has an annual fund raising golf outing to assist Kathy Hospice. As a faith community JOS seems to have made the right decisions in terms of sharing with those in need.
When you look over your financial situation and see that from time to time there may be a little to spare how will you answer the question, "what shall I do?" "How much do I need?" Will you make more investments? Save more for the rainy day? Make a donation to a homeless shelter; a food pantry; another program to assist those in need?
For some of us it is a hard call to make---for others of us it is a "no brainer".