In our consumer-oriented culture we all collect lots of “stuff.” Some of us are hoarders—of trinkets to trash, literally. Others of us “collect things” and fill our shelves, cupboards and every nook and cranny with certain items, and still more have closets full of clothes that we will never wear. For others, the collected items are more exotic or at least more “high end,” such as art work, jewels, or beach-front property, perhaps cars, boats or other forms of entertainment.
I have experienced this phenomenon of “collecting” myself as well as have heard numerous people talk about the difficulty of cleaning up someone’s home—disposing of their personal items—after their death. Over the last year I have been the executor of a friend’s estate. It is amazing all the things we collect—and consider important or valuable or of great import in our life, and yet when we are gone, no one wants them—you can’t sell them or even give them away. It is a sad realization.
In today’s Gospel of Luke we hear the parable of the wealthy man who builds more and bigger barns to store all of his possession—produce of the earth—for himself and yet unbeknownst to him, he will have no more need of these items past that night. Today’s gospel asks us to consider what is of import to us during this life—and for the life to come. We are asked to consider just how we spending our life—what are we collecting and doing with our time on earth—for what are we preparing?
The gospel reminds us of two certainties: first, death is a reality; and second, are we working to spend a life in eternity with God? Am I about “more stuff?” Do I ignore what is of real value to me and in this world? Do I consider what is “enough” for me and move in that direction so that my “collecting and storing-up” of items is transformed into a sharing attitude and a clear understanding of my needs versus my wants—and the needs of others?
This is not to say that today’s gospel message is one of austerity or of not enjoying my hard work and my blessings. God asks us to enjoy life—but it is in our definition of “enjoyment” that we do not feed upon the idea that the more I have the more I deserve. But rather we are to ask ourselves “how much do I really need, what is important, and how to do I share things—the blessings of my life—with others?
As a human being, I too collect things and desire the “easy life” in the sense of creature comforts. And while that is not a “bad thing,” the compulsion of it is. When I or anyone turns a hobby into an
obsession or when we keep moving the life on “what I need” up to “what I desire or want,” then we allow these “collected things” to define us—and to control us.
Luke’s Gospel today—which follows right after last weekend’s gospel on the persistence of
prayer and God’s desire that prayer transform our hearts to hear and act on His Will—asks us to pray for God’s grace in our lives to: (1) accept and understand the reality of death and the passing over into Eternal Life; and (2) to recognize the real priority of this earthly life, to work now for the unknown day or time when we will go home to God and to focus this all-too-brief earthly life on the outcome of a glorious Eternal Life with He who is, was and shall ever be.
This does not mean to drop everything and become a hermit. In fact it means the opposite of that, rather we are called to live amid the world we have been given but to live righteously—to know what we need and then to take the abundance of plenty that we have in this culture and share with those who do not—both near and far away from us. And when we enjoy this life properly, when can be assured of the life to come and the sharing in the One who does not change or tarnish or disappoint, our loving and merciful Father.