How petty these trifling squabbles must have seemed to One who had set His face toward Jerusalem to meet His Passion. Here the sublime meets the venal. The man in the crowd is more concerned with money than with the bonds of family. Yet Christ is prepared to lay down His very life in order to make us His brothers and sisters. The man gripes about being gypped out of his parental inheritance. His complaints make him oblivious to Christ’s desire to give all God’s children a share in the heavenly Father’s legacy. Self-interest has made the man mean-spirited and small. His day resounds with “my brother” instead of “Our Father.”
As a result, Jesus warns the crowd to “take care to guard against all greed.” Any negligence or compromise on our part regarding the lure of greed jeopardizes our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Father, and the offer of the Kingdom.
Put very bluntly, one’s life does not consist of possessions. That is, one’s life cannot be made secure simply by adding more to what one may already have. Jesus will reiterate this truth several times before His death. He will soon tell His disciples, “Sell your belongings and give alms” (Lk 12:33), and, “Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33).
It is not that having things is bad in and of itself. We need a certain amount of material goods in order to live and provide for others who depend upon us. The danger that Jesus warns about, by telling the parable of the rich man with a large harvest, lies in the attitudes that all too often accompany the “storing up of treasure for themselves.” We can be poisoned by a false sense of entitlement by which we believe we have the right to special treatment to be exempted, dispensed and upgraded over the unwashed masses. We can be deluded into thinking that we can get by without God. We can become accustomed to getting things our own way.
Most likely, if the man in the gospel were not upset by some self-centered need, he would have paid no attention to Jesus at all. Possessions have the potential to make us equally forgetful and dismissive of God. For this reason, Jesus has commanded us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our daily asking keeps us from becoming self-satisfied and turns us to God, the source of all we have and are.
Thus, Christ asks us to live with uncertainty, contingency, and maybe even a little temporal injustice. All these things keep us poor. And poverty keeps us dependent on God. And humble dependency on God is the key to perfection. That is what matters to God. That is what life consists of.
Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)