What are we desiring more of in life? Things? Success? How about Jesus?
Living the Word / By Carla Oliver
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / July 31
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
I always find there to be a little bit of humor in thinking about what it must have been like for members of the early church to process what Jesus meant when he spoke about greed, wealth, or riches. In our current society, these things can take real tangible images. The wants and needs that we have today are vastly different from that of the early church in both spiritual and worldly senses. Our desire for instant gratification, the limitless opportunities found in the modern age, the hunger for success — we can easily name and identify the list of things that might occupy this space in our lives and cultivate our desire for more.
The Greek word used for “greed” is pleonexia, which translates literally to “a desire to have more.” As we strive to live life as intentional disciples, great wealth is not typically the most common thing that the average lay faithful struggles to give over. But if we shift our understanding of this encounter with Jesus’ teachings to the origin of the word “greed” we can see a little more into the simplicity and ordinary of Jesus calling us to live in greater union with him.
Shifting my worldview to a lens that is more fixated on seeing Jesus as the center, this Greek translation of “greed” — the desire to have more — is something that I know well in my heart and life. Perhaps you do as well. Maybe it is money, maybe it is more followers on social media, more success in your job, more people attending your event, more attention, more people recognizing your accomplishments, more possessions, more clothes. There are many things that our world is telling us that we have earned the right to have more of. That we should be striving for and desiring more of, that we should rely more on ourselves to get those things and satisfy these wants than to create the room for Jesus to be the one to satisfy.
ABUNDANT HOLINESS, PEACE
Jesus is teaching us through this parable of the rich man to be vigilant against these desires. He is bringing awareness of the need to be on guard against the quiet whisper of the enemy that attempts to push us toward wanting what could be and away from the gratefulness for what is. This specific greed kills us spiritually, for when we are wanting more of things there is little room left for wanting more of Jesus. The enemy wants nothing more than for you to be comfortable relying on yourself and minimizing the capacity for Jesus to satisfy.
I believe that it is very easy today to be distracted with being self-reliant and limiting that room for Jesus, and that is where we all could grow. Lately I have become more aware of how chasing the fulfillment of my personal desires — of what could be and not recognizing what is currently allowing me to be on fire for Christ — and working within my own reliance wears me down so quickly. How when I try to rely solely on my own will, I am exhausted, anxious, burdened to the point of frustration, yet when I rely on Jesus and my desire for more of Him, I am more satisfied than I could imagine. That the holiness I am seeking and longing for is more tangible and peace is more abundant.
The best way I have learned to create the needed space for Christ to fulfill my desire for more is to give Him more of my day. This comes from a habit of daily prayer, of being able to be in union and conversation with Him. To be able to pray, discern, discuss, and repeat until it is with conviction that I am able to respond freely to the more that Jesus has for me.
This grace that we are given — to take ownership of our desires and bring them to the master of the harvest to provide — is great beauty. In your life what are you desiring more of? Things or Jesus?
Carla Oliver is the administrative assistant in the diocesan Office of Vocations. In addition to teaching for four years, she served for two years as a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which included leading Bible studies. She can be reached at email@example.com.