First reading from Ecclesiastes
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities!
All things are vanity!
Gospel reading from Luke
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do?’ ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool!
This night your life will be demanded of you.’”
There is an insightful story about an American tourist, traveling in Europe, who paid a visit to a famous wise and holy priest who lived there. The American was surprised when he saw how simply the man lived, in a single room with only books and a table and a chair. “Father, where is your furniture?’ asked the tourist. “Where is yours?” the priest asked. The American tourist answered, “My furniture? I am passing through here.” The wise priest responded: “So am I”!
This little story gets to the heart of our readings today. Today the readings are simple and clear, and they force us to deal with one of the fundamental questions of life.
Today we are asked:
What’s it all about? Is it all about the possessions we accumulate, or eternal life?
In the first reading, we heard the voice of a man known as Qoheleth who says: You work and worry your way through life and what do you have to show for it? He says if you give your life to nothing but the accumulation of possessions, in the end, it’s all vanity. The Hebrew word for vanity means puffs of air. It’s all just --- puffs of air --- here today and gone tomorrow.
The speaker of this story is said to be King Solomon who was very wealthy. He sounds like a cranky old man at the end of his life who has it all, but is feeling empty, when he says: Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Jesus says the same thing.
He says of the man who decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones so he can store up the possessions of this world: “You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life.”
“You fool!” I’m pretty sure that’s one greeting none of us hope to hear from Jesus at the end of our lives. But if I’m being honest, Jesus’ parable creates anxiety in me. I mean isn’t the rich man’s reaction to a financial bonanza pretty much the same as anyone’s? You have a banner year at work, hit a bull’s eye in the stock market, get an inheritance don’t most people then consider: How can I save this money? Where will it be safe?
The farmer’s problem isn’t that he’s had a great harvest, or that he’s rich, or that he wants to plan for the future. The farmer’s problem is that his good fortune has curved his vision so that everything he sees starts and ends with himself. In Jesus’ story, the rich fool in his speech refers to himself 13 times in 5 short sentences. It was all about him. It was never about being thankful for the blessings of God. And, he never gave one thought to sharing his good fortune with those in need.
The point of the parable is not that money, and earthly goods are bad. In the Scriptures, there are many texts that underscore that having riches is not sinful; it’s what one does with them that determines virtue or vice. Abraham, for example, was said to be highly favored by God because he had great flocks and herds and a great number of servants. The goods of the earth are not only good, according to God’s Word itself, but they are also essential for human survival. But … they’re not enough. They’re not what life is all about, and they don’t satisfy the deepest longing of the human spirit. Jesus is saying if the way you measure your life is by the things you possess, you better re-think that!
The man in the parable was a fool because what he gave his life for was transient, fleeting and temporary – puffs of air! VANITY!
When we focus our lives exclusively on this world and on acquiring and hoarding the passing treasures in this life, and never give a thought to God and what he wants of our lives – we’re fools. The desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied by what is here today and gone tomorrow. This foolish man was so pre-occupied with himself and the things of this world that he forgot that there was another world — an eternal world. Jesus is saying don’t build your treasure on earth build it in heaven.
Someone once wisely said: “This world is a bridge.
The wise man will pass over it but will not build his house upon it.”
This world is just a preparatory stage to another world and the person who forgets this is foolish. The main object of life is to prepare for eternity. To remember – We’re only passing through. That’s the answer to the fundamental question of life: “What’s it all about?”
Saint Paul tells us to live a life full of meaning and wisdom:
Seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.