When I was moving from Birmingham to Detroit, There was a cartoon in the newspaper that caught my attention. It was a depiction of an elderly man in heaven looking at boxes that were delivered. The many says to another person in heaven: “You can’t take it with you, but nobody said you couldn’t send it ahead.” Such is the temptation to hold onto things.
And so Jesus says in our Gospel reading, in response to someone who is in a dispute with his brother over an inheritance: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” After that, Jesus tells a parable of a rich person who wanted to hang on to a greater than usual harvest, so he wouldn’t have to worry ever again about having enough. Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable wish? But God in the parable tells the man that he will die that night, and Jesus ends the parable by saying, “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
I wonder if greed is not mostly a matter of insecurity. When we get greedy, we never have enough. Enough for what? To be happy? To feel safe and secure? To feel powerful? We can seem to forget that our only security comes from God. Our only happiness is in God. And our only real power is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone is enough.” And when God is enough for us, we find ourselves able to give of ourselves so that others can have the basic necessities of life.
Our life does not consist of the things we have, but the love God has for us. And even that we cannot keep to ourselves, but is meant for us to share. And no matter how much we share, we will never run out. May we trust in the riches of God.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.