The basis of life and peace is not wealth or possessions, but God alone
By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 4
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm 90:3-4,5-6,12-13,14,17; Colossians 3:1-5,9-11; Luke 12:13-21
Today the stock market is up: “S&P 500, Nasdaq hit new highs Friday ahead of crucial Fed decision.”
How many of us have these sorts of headlines for our daily diet? In the Gospel today, there is a similar headline. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 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 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!” (Luke 12:19)
The temptation is deep-seated in us. Whether we have much or not so much, what we have can drive our decisions. Jesus gives a very different response: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
It is easy to confuse the material goods which represent our time, hard work, talents and dreams with happiness. They can provide illusions of present control and future security. When we find ourselves focused on them, we confuse such possessions with the source and purpose of life.
IN SEARCH OF MEANING
Jesus speaks quite clearly of greed. It can be greed of material possessions, greed for power, greed for social connections. In all of these cases, the ultimate desire becomes a counterfeit of life itself. Jesus urges those who would follow him to see God alone as the source and purpose of life.
A prudent reserve of resources can ease anxiety about the future. But the basis of life and peace is not the wealth (possessions) but God who provided it. Acquisition of material possessions must never take the place of the divine mission to which God calls each disciple. The purpose of life is to become like Christ, and the goal of our search for acquisitions is to build up a treasury of acts of forgiveness, generosity, kindness, charity. That is the true meaning of life’s search.
In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, learned the power of the meaning of life. For him, it is not for us to ask what life means. Life itself asks us what meaning we will give it. For us as disciples of Jesus, we give meaning to our lives by the energy we put into the everyday choices we make that create the very fabric of our lives.
A college student came into class one day wearing a shirt that read, “The one who dies with the most toys wins!” At the end of our days what we have accumulated will answer the question life asks us. What kind of “toys” will we have to show for our efforts in life? Will it be the larger barns we have built to hold our possessions, will it be the amount of power we have amassed, will it be the circle of people who admire us . . . or will it be the way we have treated others in compassion and mercy and charity?
Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She has been a teacher, campus minister and pastoral associate, and currently offers retreats and spirituality programs in Peoria.