“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
I must confess that I hear life, and the Gospels as having a soundtrack.
As I reflected on today’s Gospel, I couldn’t help but picture Liza with a Z and Joel Grey in the 1972 film Cabaret.
Money makes the world go around, it makes the world go round, the world go round.
A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound, a buck or a pound is all that makes the world go round.
Money, money, money, money, money, money…
In a 2004 episode of Frontline called The Persuaders, the documentary gave us a perspective of the evolving practices of Ad agency practices.
Now with apologies to those in advertising, I’m going to briefly share a few thoughts from this program.
According to this program there have been three waves to categorize how the persuaders pitch their products to the American consumer.
The first based on the product itself. Ad pitches letting you know that the Brylcream, a little dab will do you and the product Vitalis which even spawned a song Greasy Kid Stuff.
The second based on celebrity; LeBron James celebrity endorsement of Nike, Sofia Vergara’s endorsement of Proctor and Gamble. The age of Star power swaying people into purchasing long before it was called influencer market.
And now, how your life will be transformed if only you made this purchase. Samsung Galaxy, “Everything you love,” Geico Car Insurance, “I want it that way!”
We swim in a sea of messages. Culture and marketing influence what we buy, how we view ourselves, and how we view the world around us.
Advertisers mine data to find out what will make us feel rich with fulfillment and satisfaction. Money makes the world go around, go round.
Today, Jesus challenges us to mine some data, what does it mean to be rich toward God?
The centerpiece of this Gospel is the Parable of the Rich Fool.
The story opens with someone in the crowd asking Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance with him.
Then we meet the man more concerned with storing excesses than working towards God’s realm.
And, last week, we heard the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Martha was too distracted by her work to sit with Jesus.
All these rich scriptural characters are a lot like us, too distracted, too busy, fixated on what we have or don’t have preventing a different view of life.
Every Gospel story has gifts for us to mine, rich with grace for the taking.
And parables are meant to be paradoxical; today’s invites us to mine the rich data of what it means to live a life of fulfillment, a life rich towards God.
Yet as a retired person, I know, saving for future needs is proper care of oneself and one’s family, it is proper stewardship of God’s bounty.
And, there is a balance between giving Glory to God, caring for one’s neighbors, and providing for the poor and the marginalized, those without access to the basic needs of survival.
I believe there is a powerful gift in this Gospel parable that leads us to understand what it means to live a sanctified life.
Those who have no land, no crops for the asking, the widows, the orphans, those on the margins of society aren’t in the world view of the man concerned about his inheritance and the rich fool worried about expanding his storage facility to preserve his wealth.
Today’s Gospel invites us to deepen our spirituality, to trust in God, to renew our relationship with God.
The parable singes away the notion that a Godly life is synonymous with prosperity and success.
Our capacity to trust God deepens when we lesson our grip of desire for abundance, wealth and possessions.
Eternal wealth is found in the economy of God’s grace and mercy.
The world does push back.
In Jesus time as people became richer others became poorer; lives were strongly affected by others.
And the rich man only sees the dilemma of needing more storage, not how he could act to assist the benefit of others. His mantra – “relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
Not so unfamiliar to us, is it?
Culture tells us what’s important, what label to buy, what we need to have to feel successful and important.
Self-fulfillment drives us to focus on self, and keeps us from a deeper relationship with God and others.
Our society promotes individualism, so like the Rich Fool; we forget that God is the source of the earth’s bounty and that there are neighbor’s without access to it.
We ignore the hand of God in our good fortune, focus on accruing more benefits, plunging ourselves into the world that distracts us with messages and drives us to desire abundance.
And sadly we encounter way to many stories where people become rich by exploiting others, lavishly valuing possessions more than people.
Today’s Gospel is a fire – wall, designed to prevent the insatiable call to measure and value life in a singular way from distracting us.
The “Rich Fool” is a negative example of what it means to follow Christ. His story stands in contrast to God’s providential care for the rich and the poor, and a familiar theme in St. Luke’s writings, proper stewardship of one’s possessions.
This parable leads us to the edge of a cliffhanger.
We stand to determine the future, to decide what we want, and why we want it.
To reckon with our desires, to confront the inclination to store up treasures for our own pleasure, to recognize God’s blessings, to deepen our relationship with God;
To further explore what it means to be rich towards God.
To decide if we will measure ourselves by the standards of our culture, the pull of the media, by the “clinking, clanking sound that makes the world go around,” or commit to do the deep work that seduces us to heed the Gospel message?
In the book, Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser writes, “In this life, all symphonies remain unfinished. Our deep longings are never really satisfied. What this means, among other things is that we are not restful creatures who sometimes get restless, fulfilled people who are sometimes dissatisfied, serene people who sometimes experience disquiet. At the center of our lives lies a fiery energy, a perpetual disquiet, a lingering loneliness, an inchoate ache we can never quite name.
It is a holing longing, a sacred fire, which in the words of St. Augustine directs us towards God.
It is ours to seek, ours to channel.
Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Spiritual writer, offers this exercise as a starting point. Please repeat after me.
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
BE STILL AND KNOW.
And then become comfortable with a period of silence, extending it, as you become more of a friend to contemplation.
Someone, Fr. Rohr offers, said that the language of God is silence, all else, is a poor translation.
For if God wants to get through to us, he has a much better chance when our agenda, our conclusions, our judgments are out of the way.
And in silence we yearn to be “rich towards God.”