Archive for the ‘Rich Fool’ Category

Be Rich In What Matters — 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year C

July 30, 2016

The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

A large crowd surrounds Jesus as he preaches and teaches. During a brief pause, a man in the crowd says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me!” Presumably, his brother is there amongst them as well (otherwise how could Jesus reprove him?) Yet the Lord replies to the man, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” That seems like an odd response from Jesus. Is Jesus denying his own authority?  On a different occasion, Jesus stated, “If I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me.” Imagine if the man in the crowd had answered Jesus’ rhetorical question, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” The man might say, “Well Teacher, we think you’re God’s prophet, so you speak for God.”

To this, Jesus could reply, “Indeed, the words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. But if you accept that I am God’s prophet, that I speak for God, then listen and heed all that I teach, not just the things you want to hear. On the last day, when I return in my glory with all the angels with me, I will sit upon my glorious throne with all peoples assembled before me and I shall judge and separate the righteous and the unrighteous, one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Yet, my Father God did not send me into this world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through me.

In our Gospel, Jesus goes on to tell the crowd (including those two feuding brothers): “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Jesus is warning the crowd, the brothers, and us that ‘personal bitterness and earthly greed will hinder you from entering the Kingdom.’ Rather, we must keep a heavenly perspective. As St. Paul urges in our second reading, “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

Of course, we all have material needs as human beings here on earth —we’re not angels and we need our daily bread. So Jesus teaches us to practice prudent stewardship, marked by frugality, generosity, and a trust in the Lord that frees us from worthless worrying. However, both Jesus in our Gospel and King Solomon in our first reading note the futility of amassing riches for ourselves.

Jesus tells a parable of “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?’” (Notice how “He asked himself, ‘What shall I do?” The man does not look beyond himself for holy wisdom or guidance.)

And [then the rich man] said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.” (Why does he need to tear down his old barns? Does not the rich man, who just reaped a bountiful harvest, own plenty of land on which to build more barns? It seems his vanity desires to tear down the old barns so that his new barns may be huge and impressive.)

The rich man continues his conversation with himself, “[In my new barns] 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!’” (He shows no thought for his family or friends, his neighbors or the needy, only his own personal pleasure.)

The rich man has made grand plans for himself, but God says to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you!” If this man is only interested in his own will, his own glory, and his own happiness in this life, then how will he love his neighbors, hallow God’s name, or desire God’s will in the next life?

To find ourselves at home in Heaven someday we should seek and follow God’s will for our time, talents, and treasure today. We should practice faithful stewardship, with prudence and trust, frugality and generosity. And this stewardship should include tithing and supporting worthy causes—not to buy Heaven (for God cannot be bribed or bought) but in order to become more virtuous and loving, to become more fit for Heaven. Those who store up treasure for themselves on earth profit nothing in the end. Let us not be foolish. Let us instead become rich in what matters to God by becoming more like Jesus, who has been so generous to us.

Advertisements

History’s Ten Wealthiest People and the Vanity of Riches

July 27, 2016

In estimated billions of present-day dollars

  1. Cornelius Vanderbilt ($185, died 1877)
    This railroad tycoon’s only large philanthropic gift gave about 1% of his fortune to build Vanderbilt University.
  1. Henry Ford ($199, died 1947)
    This deceased automaker’s name survives on vehicles seen upon every road and junkyard.
  1. Muammar Gaddafi ($200, died 2011)
    This dictator of Libya, after being discovered hiding in a desert culvert, was killed by his people.
  1. Jakob Fugger “the Rich ($221, died 1525)
    While he lived, this German merchant-financier declared, “The king reigns, but the bank rules!
  1. William The Conqueror ($229, died 1087)
    After killing many to capture England, this Duke of Normandy, France joined the dead.
  1. Mir Osman Ali Khan ($230, died 1967)
    As head of the state of Hyderabad, India, he used a 185-carat diamond as a paperweight.
  1. Czar Nikolas II ($300, died 1918)
    This Russian ruler was assassinated along with his family by communist revolutionaries.
  1. Andrew Carnegie ($310, died 1919)
    This steel magnate and philanthropist said, “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”
  1. John D. Rockefeller ($340, died 1937)
    He sold oil drawn from Ohio’s earth and now lays buried in the same.
  1. Mansa Musa I ($400, died 1337)
    This African king of Mali was the richest man to ever live. But have you ever heard of him?

Psalm 49:7-12 :

“No man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life. The ransom of his soul is beyond him. He cannot buy life without end, nor avoid coming to the grave. He knows that wise men and fools must both perish and must leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes for ever, their dwelling place from age to age, though their names spread wide through the land. In his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the beasts that are destroyed.”

 

A Multiple Choice Meditation

August 6, 2013

In the Gospel’s Parable of the Rich Fool, a rich man’s land produces bountifully. Upon seeing this, which of the following does the rich man say:

A) “I shall fill my barns and give the rest to the poor.”
B) “I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones to store everything away.”
C) “I shall keep only what I need and give the rest away.”
D) “Lord, what do you want me to do with all of this wealth?”

Which response do you think would have pleased the Lord most?

The Work & Riches God Esteems

August 6, 2013

Two weeks ago, Martha approached Jesus to complain about her sister, “Tell her to help me.” Today, a man goes to Jesus to complain about his brother, “Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” While both complaints are seemingly appeals for justice, Jesus refuses them. They are actually centered on selfishness rather than love. Jesus says, “it will not be taken from her,” and “take care to guard against all greed.”

The rich man in the parable says to himself, “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry,” but the God says, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” The rich man is about to come to face his judgment as a truly poor man—possessing no wealth “in what matters to God.”

Martha is corrected for being obsessed with her anxious, self-centered work. The Rich Man is condemned for aspiring to an easy life of leisure. We are called to avoid both errors as we work diligently with generous love to accrue the kind of riches that God esteems.

The Rich Fool — 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

August 12, 2010

I regret to inform you that you are going to die. Perhaps not today, but someday, and it could be very soon. We should ask ourselves, “Am I ready? How can I prepare?”

The Gospel relates the story of a man who was not ready, a man God calls a “fool.” Jesus offers Him as an anti-role model; a person whose example we should learn from, but not imitate. Yes, he is a fool for hoarding his possessions. The old saying is true, “You can’t take it with you.” But there are more subtle lessons we can learn from his bad example. This morning I would like to present three things this rich man has to teach us:

The first lesson comes from what he does when his land produces a bountiful harvest. He asks himself, “What shall I do?” There is nothing wrong with this question in itself, but he is a fool in the way he asks it. The rich man asks himself, and only himself, “What shall I do?” He does not consult with God, in either his conscience or in prayer, to learn what His will is.

What is the lesson here for us?  Let us remember to listen to the Lord as He speaks in our conscience, through prayer, the Scriptures, and the people He has placed in our lives. We should listen for God’s direction every day, and throughout each day.

A second cautionary lesson is found in the rich man’s plan for solving his storage problem. He says, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.” What was wrong with the older barns? They were not large enough to hold everything, but why tear them down? The rich man has plenty of land. Why did he want to replace his perfectly good barns?

Vanity of vanities, he wanted his storehouses to be the newest, the biggest, and the best. Though the rich man was not very concerned about other people, he was very concerned about their high opinion of him. Even in those days, people were tempted to consumerism.

Consumerism seems to consist in two phantom promises: that having just a little more will truly give me lasting happiness, and that others will regard, accept, and love me when they notice the things that I have. These are phantom promises, for as soon as one reaches to grasp them they prove empty, illusory, receding further out of reach.

The fact is that the people who are happiest in life are not the wealthiest. (By that measure, pretty much every American should be among the happiest people in the world.) The happiest people tend to be those who share the most or give the most away. The person who recognizes they have enough, that life does not consist in possessions, is content and secure enough to share. Some people try to get the most out of life as possible, but what we appreciate most in our lives is the ways in which we have given of ourselves for others.

Our third cautionary lesson is heard in God’s rebuke of the man: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” When we think of the things the rich man has prepared, we think of his harvest and goods.  One of the things he has ill-prepared… is his soul, which this night will be demanded of him. And now, to whom will it belong?

The lesson here for us?  As focused as we are upon our possessions, we must be more attentive to our souls. Someday, we are going to die. In the meantime, then, let us put to death, the parts of you that are earthly, as St. Paul said: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.

What lessons does the rich man teach us? Reject the false promises of the consumer cult, for life does not consist in possessions. (Self-gift is the meaning of life) Turn your heart to your spiritual well-being, for your life and this world shall pass away.  And to frequently ask Jesus, everyday, “What shall I do?” Let us begin today, before it is too late for us to begin living wisely.