#Greed is the podcast for August 4, 2019, Make a todo list and then do what this podcasts ask you to do. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke12 #Greed #Eden #GardenOfEden #CommunionWithGod #CommunionWithHumanity #CommunionWithEarth #Riches #Capitalism #Communism #Liberal #Conservative #KingdomofHeaven #KingdomofGod #ChristianLife
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/4/2019 The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 12:13-21.
I want you to take a moment and think of all the things you need to do. Maybe it is a list of things that you should do to fix your house, your car, some hobby you want to finish, or a to do list for tomorrow or for your long range future. Is your will up to date?
I want you to take a moment and think of all the places you would like to go, things you would like to see. Be reasonable, now. Be realistic.
I want you to take a moment and think of all the things you would need to say to others. Have you said “I love you” enough? Have you said “I am sorry” enough? Have you asked for forgiveness enough?
Now, imagine you dropped dead right where you are, right now.
Now what? How important now are your to-dos, your places to see list? Here is the hardest one: when are you going to say “I love you”, “I am sorry,” or “Please, forgive me” now? Dropping dead now gives some clarity to what is truly important, doesn’t it?
One reason that we have a hard time with clarity about the true priorities of life is given by Jesus in the so-called “Parable of the Rich Fool”. Here, we have a rich young man whose family has an inheritance which is worth fighting over in a society where that was very few and far between. He is coming to Jesus in public amongst a bunch of people who have no inheritance about which to speak and he pouting-ly says, “Make my brother give me what I want.”
To that, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Fool who has so much grain that he is just perplexed with what to do with it. Rather than share it with starving people and keep what he needs, he instead decides that he is going to build bigger barns to help himself live for a very long time. In essence, he is going into early retirement.
We may ask what is wrong with early retirement? We all see the commercials of silver haired people in super clean, stylish retreats where there is always water next to the property. The commercials tell us that a wealthy self-focused retirement is the aim, the goal, the ambition of life. The commercials could use the Rich Fool’s words as their tag line: “take your ease, drink, be merry,” with TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Edward Jones, CapitalOne Financial, etc. This is not the Christian ideal of life: to build bigger barns so that we can be financially set without the thought of others.
Christians start with Eden. Eden represents the archetype, the ideal, of what the life of humanity should be. We should be in communion with God, which means in love with him and obedient to him. We should be in communion with one another, which means being concerned for the total well-being of the other. That includes food, clothing, shelter, employment, health care, education, and cultural activities. We are to treat others as God would treat them. (By the way, he sacrificed his only Son so that they could have forgiveness and love. Think of that for our behavior.) We are to be in communion with creation, which means we are to make sure we do not pollute the earth, exploit the earth for more than we need, and we should care for the earth as God would.
If you do not believe me, then look at the three curses that happened when humanity decided that it knew better than God and listened to the serpent. The curses are, in order: first we had to leave the Garden of Eden breaching communion with God. Second, Genesis 3 says that there will be “enmity between” man and woman, in other words communion with humanity is breached. Third, the ground is “cursed” because of our sin and “in toil shall [we] eat of it all the days of [our] lives.” (Gen. 3:17) It is a breach of communion with the earth.
The issue that Jesus reveals in the parable of the Rich Fool is that of “covetousness” or “greed.” Greed, which Michael Douglas made the singular catch phrase for the 1980s, is not good, as he says in the 1987 movie “Wall Street.” Oh, yes, it motivates us to act on our own behalf to accumulate wealth, but in doing so, it makes us intentionally unaware of the needs of others, intentionally calloused to the needs of others. Just look at the way we are talking about the needs of people who are leaving their countries to amass at the Southern Border of the United States. Or, the millions of people who have fled Syria, or Yemen, due to war, what is our reaction to them?
In the Garden of Eden, when we were in proper communion with humanity, we would not worry about if they are worthy, if they are hard working, if they met our criteria for deservedness, because in the Garden of Eden the only criteria would be that they are alive and they breathe.
St. Ambrose of Milan, the Bishop who baptized a more famous Saint, St. Augustine, of what is modern day Libya, said that greed does two things: Greed makes what should be a common good the right of the few, and greed dilutes justice. Basically, Ambrose says that greed made us put property lines up and said that only the person within those lines should have a right to the food on it, but are there property lines in Eden or in heaven? If the Kingdom of God is living out heaven on earth, then how can we deny someone the food that will be hanging free for the taking in the kingdom of God? It is a radical notion, but I am NOT advocating removal of private property which gives life to humanity and protects our right to live. Yet, still, God does not give us what wealth we do have just to build bigger barns for ourselves. Nor, does it say it is OK to fight about your inheritance when most others around you are scratching for an existence and will have no inheritance.
You may think the rich man who comes to Jesus to have a dispute with his brother over the inheritance is not such a bad thing. Think of this though, if you were in a crowd and were able to ask one thing of the Savior of the World, the King of kings, and Lord of lords would your request be, “give me my half of the estate?” That requires quite an indifference to the plight of others, just like the Rich Fool decides that the answer to a huge surplus of grain is not charity, but greed.
Christians are to be just the opposite of the greedy. That is hard in any society because although we need to take care of ourselves, which Jesus is not disputing here, we have to be careful that we do not mistake greed as “giving ourselves what we deserve.” What do we deserve, but that which God has given us? Then we need to give it back to him and let him decide what needs to happen to it. After caring for himself to take care of himself for a few years, the rest should have been given away or sold at an affordable cost. Anything more is just selfishness and selfishness is greed and greed robs God of his rightful place as the Lord of our lives.
Remember greed is not just about money and possessions. It can be in how we horde our time, how we horde the conversation, how we horde emotional power, how we put anything before God and his ways, really. God has a way of life and a way of thinking about the world that is not about capitalism, communism, liberal, or conservative. It is a way that places us in our proper order as the ones who live the reality of heaven right now. In doing so, we are in full communion with God, full communion with one another, and in communion with the earth.
So, go back to your list. If you were to drop dead at midnight tonight, what would the Father have you do first, second, third? Well, that is your to-do list for today. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian