BY FATHER TOM FLANAGAN -- ST. JOSEPH'S CATHOLIC CHURCH
This time of year, when our gardens are producing abundantly and our farmers are beginning to anticipate the harvest, I am reminded of the scripture passage (Luke 12: 13-21) in which Jesus tells the parable of the rich man who didn't know what to do with his bountiful harvest. His solution was to build new barns and look forward to a life of ease and luxury, but death came that very day. To whom will all these riches belong?
When John D. Rockefeller died at the age of 98 at the beginning of the twentieth century, he was the wealthiest man in the world. And a reporter who was assembling his obituary asked his chief aide, "Just how much did your boss leave behind?" The aide answered, "All of it."
The same is true for us. We will leave behind whatever we do not invest above. And how sad would it be, at the time of our death, if our bank account here on earth is bulging full and our storehouse in heaven is empty and bare.
Nowhere does this Gospel passage say that wealth or even its accumulation is evil. So let us not get lost in unnecessary guilt about having money or possessing things. The story cautions us, however, not to store up treasure for oneself but to grow rich in what matters to God.
The important thing is always to keep the end in mind and to remember the purpose of life. What are we here for? Is life more than a series of eating, drinking, sleeping and enjoying? And when the time is up, how shall the Lord encounter us? The man in the Gospel seems to live only to accumulate and to hoard. He's able to increase his wealth, but impoverishes his own life because his concern is only for himself. He apparently attracts no friendships, generates no solidarity with others, experiences no love.
God wants us to die rich; He wants us to give Him a life that has value, a life that was lived well, rich in meaning. What He wants and what we can give Him, regardless of our economic position or our social status, is a spirit that is richly adorned with attitudes and personality characteristics that are similar to those of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps a closing story: Once an elderly lady approached her pastor. She told him that her husband had recently died and she was going to make a significant donation to the church. She then revealed her plan to give the bulk of her estate to the church. The pastor was grateful, but also curious. He mentioned that most people seemed almost automatically to will everything to the children. "I know they do," said the woman. Then she smiled, "but I want my children to be sad when I die!"