26th Sunday after Pentecost.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear about the rich man who thought to hoard all of his wealth and bask in his worldly luxuries and enjoyments. This man had been blessed with an over abundance of crops and his barns were bursting at the seams. He thought to himself that he would build new and bigger areas to store his great wealth. And he said to himself in his great self-satisfaction, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But like a blind and foolish man, he gave no thought to eternity and God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
This man whom the world would call a success, God calls a fool – for he was wholly preoccupied with laying up treasures on earth for himself and neglected that ‘one thing needful’, the love of God and the destiny of his eternal soul.
This parable of the rich man is a very sobering lesson to which we all should pay close attention. Even if we do not have great wealth, we must not think that this lesson has nothing to do with us. The point of today’s Gospel has less to do with the value and quantity of one’s possessions, the point of today’s Gospel is all about where our focus and energy lies and upon that to which we entrust our well-being.
The rich man in today’s Gospel was not a fool because he had an abundant crop and many possessions. The man was a fool because he selfishly believed that he was the sole source of his good fortune, that his worldly goods were all he needed, and because he allowed his preoccupations with the things of this world to overwhelm and obscure his perception of the true meaning of his life.
A few verses further in the Gospel of St Luke, our Lord states that, ‘Where you treasure is, there will you heart be also.’ This man’s heart was completely absorbed with his material possessions – so much so that he was willing to pacify his soul by thinking to eat, drink, and be merry; enchanted by the short-lived and very fragile security and comfort that his great wealth would provide.
And, oh, what a shock awaited him on that very night! For that very night his soul was required of him… that very night he died and what good did his great worldly treasure provide him? Indeed, his preoccupation and attachment to his earthly treasures became the very things which weighed down his soul and prevented it from ascending to the heavenly heights.
It is the disposition of our mind, our heart, and our soul which determines our lot on that fateful day when we stand before the Lord. If we have spent our earthly life in selfish preoccupation with our earthly well-being – whether that is accumulating great wealth or, conversely, constantly worrying about our lack of money (for these are really two sides of focus on the same coin) – we shall not make the necessary preparations to come before the face of our Lord: an appointment that we are all destined to make.
Our earthly life is truly just a blink of an eye when viewed against the timeframe of eternity. The disposition of our mind, our heart, and our soul must be set upon those things above this worldly stage. Now, you may protest, ‘That is not practical! I have a business to run and bills to pay!’ Yes, indeed, we live in the world and the world requires us to sweat and to toil and it makes demands on our time and our attention. We must do so, but in doing so, what is our attitude, where is our heart, and in what do we set our hope?
Our Lord has set us in various situations in our worldly life and these situations are the arena in which we must do spiritual battle. Whether that situation is wealth, poverty, the demands of the family life, or battling the loneliness of being isolated – all these arenas are the place in which we are to carryout our responsibilities in a manner pleasing to the Lord and with that disposition of mind, of heart, and of soul that does all things to the glory of God, with thanksgiving to God, and always remains conscious of our dependence on God.
The rich man of today’s Gospel was a fool because of his delusions of self-sufficiency, because of his forgetfulness and ingratitude to God. We need to heed the call we heard in today’s Epistle reading, ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ Our preoccupation with the things of this world lulls us into spiritual blindness, lulls us into worrying more about the temporal things of this world than about eternal things.
The cares of this earthly life, into which we pour so much of our attention and anxieties and hopes, distort and eclipse the reality of just how short our time is here on this earth. Our souls may be required of us at any time. And how shall we be found?
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… it is not the ‘what’ of the circumstances of our life that will make us or break us… it is ‘how we are being’ in those circumstances that will determine where we are placing our hope and our faith. We may be rich, we may be poor, we may be shouldering great burdens in our life – sickness, sorrow, and sighing… The issue is how are we being in those circumstances of our life. Do we enjoy our blessings with a glad heart full of gratitude to God? Do we bear our sufferings with an enduring love and determined trust in God?
Let us be good stewards in whatever situation we may find ourselves – humbly and responsibly taking care of whatever task is set before us, but not being seduced by the successes or the failures we may encounter in this world. Keeping the gaze of our mind, our heart, and our soul firmly fixed upon that heavenly treasure and the things of eternity – which break forth into our lives, surrounding us in God’s grace and mercy, even while still here on this earth.