A family feud about inheritance is exposed when a man asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus responds with a parable—the last thing the man expected.
At first hearing, we can sympathize with the man in the story. Isn’t it rather admirable? He appears to be an intelligent, enterprising, hardworking self-made man. There is no indication that he was dishonest and with some foresight planned to use his wealth to ensure a care-free future. So why does God call him a fool? The rich man’s folly did not lay in what he had but what he lacked. His thinking lacked a spiritual dimension. His mental dialog focuses on himself, his plans to “take ease, eat, drink and be merry.” This is why our Lord uses him as an example of greed or avarice, one of the seven capital sins. This is what is forbidden in the tenth commandment.
When our life is arranged around “me, myself, and I,” God and others go to the bottom of the list for our time and attention. In Scripture God does not condemn wealth but he often warns us of its dangers to our spiritual life and our salvation. Pope Francis echoed this truth when he warned us that attachment to money is “destructive.” Money changes people. Possessions can be obsessions; they can easily take hold of us. In today’s first reading, Qoheleth calls this a “vanity and a great misfortune” that results in an “anxiety of the heart.” St. Paul then exhorts us “to put to death the greed that is idolatry” and to look to keep our eyes on heaven. Earthly possessions are fleeting. The Italians have a wonderful rhyme: “Sulla terra—o lieti o tristi—siamo tutti dei turisti.” (On earth, whether happy or sad, we are but tourists.)
I like the way Pope Francis expressed it recently: “I have never seen a moving van behind a funeral procession. Never!”
But perhaps it is St. Cyprian of Carthage who provides a concise and clear conclusion to our reflection on our readings today. Perhaps was thinking of the rich man in today’s parable:
“Why do you pile up the burden of your patrimony, that the richer you have been in the sight of the world, the poorer you may become in the sight of God? Divide your returns with your God; share your gains with Christ; make Christ a partner in your earthly possessions that He also may make you co-heir of His heavenly kingdom.”