Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2: 21-23; Luke 12: 13-21
The readings this weekend can be hard for us to hear, considering what our world and culture often value. When we define success, it often comes with college degree, making large sums of money, nice house and car, none of which are bad unto themselves. However, we are often told that it’s not enough. That we still need more and more, where who we are is defined by what we have and how much of it we have. I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing more disheartening than preparing for a funeral and you have family members fighting over inheritance, like today’s gospel. Everyone wants something and they want more of it. Who cares about the person who has died! Yet, both the first reading and the gospel today put us in that position…that moment of death. Do we know what is really important in our lives? Can we imagine ourselves on our death bed and ask, “What really matters?” Is it all this stuff that we cling to in life and think defines us or is it what matters to God as Jesus tells in the parable. I can’t believe that God will be checking our bank accounts when we die, but God may be looking at how we loved in our relationships and how we loved Christ. We can accumulate all we want in this life, but as the saying goes, none of us can take it with us.
I think the best image I can think of since the idea of barns is not familiar to us is these self-storage places that you see. Again, not bad in and of themselves, but do we have that much stuff that we need to store it up in other locations? When you have the opportunity to travel to Third World countries, it’s hard to imagine the excess that we have in this country and we still want more.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is often considered one of the more negative books in the Bible. However, what the collected wisdom of that community wanted to convey was the emptiness that one would experience when their lives were consumed by greed. It’s unfortunate that we have often equated vanity with those that like to look at themselves because Ecclesiastes makes it a much broader issue. It was anything that has the potential for becoming a god for us. The reading goes onto say that we can toil and toil all our lives thinking it good that we can have, but at what cost? Is it costing us our relationships and the love we desire?
The people that Jesus addresses the parable should have known better. It was law that the land owner leave some of the harvest in the field for those who were in need, and yet, the rich man today, rather than leaving it for those in need, decides to stock pile the excess. A selfish act on his part when he had no need of it. Pope Francis recently identified this part of the culture as a “cult of money”. We allow money, wealth, and possessions to take hold of our lives and define us for who we are. Through these challenging readings, though, there is an invitation.
There is an invitation for us today to die before we die. God, it seems, from time to time gives us opportunity to reflect upon what is most important in our lives. God leads us into these crises within our lives that forces us to look at our lives and into the emptiness and shallowness that Ecclesiastes speaks of to get to the heart of who we really are. None of us wants to wait until the real death comes to first seek how empty we have spent our lives, and so we pray that we may be given the grace to die before we die.
It is an invitation to become aware of the barns we have built in our own lives and what we are stock piling, what it is that maybe most of our lives we believe defined us and begin to recognize that it’s not really me. To see that there is more out of life and more important things that money and possessions and all the things that have defined us because what matters most to God is how we loved. It’s what we all desire. It is much more complicated than accumulating and stock piling, but it is the life that God calls us to. To die before we die and to ask ourselves what really matters to us. Is it all this stuff that our world, the culture, and the financial market tells us we need, much of what is good unto itself, but is not really us? Or is it love, love of God and love of neighbor. That’s all that matters to God and should be all that matters to us.