TOPIC: AVOID GREED
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21 (The Rich Fool)
“Blessed in Expectation”
- The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother echoes the Gospel message: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” She says: “Live in peace of heart. Love, pray, make reparation.” (letter b).
b) We are waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus. There are many false prophets all over the world now (letter d). They are teaching many false doctrines and lies. Many are saying about the exact year and day of the second coming of Christ. But these are all lies (letter c). They are all meant to sow confusion, panic and fear among the people so that they will not do the proper preparations.
c) Rather, the Blessed Mother exhorts her children to live with her in this Second Advent in preparation for the Second Coming. It is a life of expectation with hope and trust (letter e). “Live in my Immaculate Heart” (letter j). This is the right and proper preparation according to Christ’s teachings: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants you await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12:35).
d) Despite all the sufferings, misunderstandings and persecutions, we will remain truly blessed when we live with Mary. She always assures us of the presence of Jesus her Son in our struggles. With Jesus and Mary, we are assured of victory, of the sure way to salvation and of our true home in heaven (letters g, h and i).
- The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading is the famous quotation from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” The author is expressing his dismay and frustration in all material things in this world. Everything is passing away. On a negative note, he is implying that nothing in this world is of lasting value. Negative as it sounds, nevertheless, it is a wake up call to all people. If we rely on the things in this world, we are bound to be terribly frustrated.
b) The Responsorial Psalm is a call to repentance and conversion: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This call becomes more urgent and important in view of the brevity of life, the imminence of death and the ephemerality of all worldly things. Man is from dust, and his days in this world are numbered, just like the grass that grows up in the morning but withers in the evening.
c) In the second reading, St. Paul implores the Colossians to have the right priority in life. Knowing how fleeting are the earthly realities, he tells them to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Then he challenges them to “put to death the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry.” In short, this is also a call to conversion and renewal of life according to the Gospel values.
d) The Gospel is the parable of the Rich Fool. The man was a good businessman. He worked hard, and nothing was said that he was dishonest or that he mistreated his workers or that he took advantage of his clients. His decision to tear down his old barn and build a much bigger one to accommodate his abundant harvest was a good and wise business decision. But Jesus called him a fool. Why? The reason is because he did not think for an instant that he is going to die. He thought everything is going to last. He lived as though he is permanent in this world. He never thought about life hereafter. And although he did not do anything unjust to other people, he never thought about them. He was only thinking about himself. What was important to him was his “I”. That is why he was a fool. All his wealth and the fruits of his labors are of no value to him anymore when he dies. In his selfishness and greed, he totally forgot about the need to store up heavenly treasures that truly last unto eternal life. Jesus gave a very strong warning: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
e) In summary, the readings are closely connected. They remind us that life is passing, and this world is only temporary. It is a fatal mistake to put our hopes on the things of this world. We are made to realize the need to focus our attention on the heavenly realities since we are made for heaven. Hence, there is a need to turn away from sin, especially greed, immorality and idolatry, and direct all our efforts and attention on our spiritual growth and maturity as children of God. In this way, we are doing exactly what the Blessed Mother in her message is asking: that we prepare for the second coming of the Lord. “Live in peace of heart. Love, pray, make reparation. Live in my Immaculate Heart.” Our inspiration and perfect model in Christian life is no other than the Blessed Virgin Mother herself. She shows us how to live as faithful follower of Christ and obedient child of God.
- Points for Reflection
a) “Take care to guard against all greed.” Greed (in Latin, avaritia), is also known as avarice or covetousness. It is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves, especially pertaining to material wealth. It is a direct violation of the commandment “Thou shall not covet they neighbors goods.” It is one of the capital sins, for from it comes many other sins. “Capital” come from the Latin “caput, capitis” – meaning, “head”). Like lust and gluttony, greed is a sin of excess. However, greed specifically applies to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. A person who is greedy can easily fall into the sins of disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain. Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, simony, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, deception, or manipulation of authority are all coming from greed. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that greed was “a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” It is definitely tantamount to idolatry – worshipping money and material things instead of God. In short, greed is one sure way to Hell. That is why Jesus warned us to avoid it at all costs.
b) The best antidote to greed is to think of death. All things in this world are passing away. That is what Ecclesiastes lamented. Everything and everybody are passing away. All will eventually die and corrupt. Death is the greatest and best equalizer. A quotation says: “In death, there are no rich men; only rich relatives.” So, when we die, of what use is the wealth we hoarded? The more wealth we hoard, the more difficult it is to climb up to heaven – the heavy load, in fact, can pull us down. A greedy person, according to the Gospel, is a fool, and the best candidate for eternal damnation.
c) A greedy person cannot find happiness. The reason is because there is never really an end to the desire to have more. “Wealth is like sea water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; the same is true of fame” (Schopenhauer). The more one craves for material things, the more he is unhappy. The happy man is not he who has the most, but he who desires the least. “The most grievous kind of destitution is to want money in the midst of wealth” (Seneca). That is why if we truly want to be happy, the first thing we have to remove from our lives is greed.
d) Greed is rooted in spiritual destitution. A person who is wanting in spiritual maturity, who lacks understanding of the Gospel message, and who does not have trust in God will surely turn to material goods as his source of happiness and security. Eventually, he trusts material things more than God. He resorts to idol worship – worshipping money, and not God. This is what causes too much trouble in the world. Pope John Paul said: “The greatest misfortune of this age is that people consider money as the highest good.” Murders, frauds, deceptions and all crimes abound because people are obsessed with acquiring more money. However, since material goods are never stable and permanent, there is always the danger of losing them in a wink of an eye. So the person becomes more insecure and afraid. The only way for him to be assured of the future is by hoarding more wealth. That is why seldom do we see rich people who are truly generous. Most of them are greedy and selfish – they are not willing to share, and they will want for more. Only the rich people who are spiritually mature are the ones who are generous and ready to share. In this sense, it can be said that greed is not only for the rich, but also for the less materially well-off. Greed is not really about riches, but is more of a sickness of the soul that is spiritually starving. A beggar can also be greedy.
e) Greed does not refer only to the excessive desire for wealth, but also for status and power. If money is addictive, power is more addictive. What we see in Philippine politics is the vivid example of this. Getting hold of a position of power is the obsession of greedy persons. To have political power is the guarantee of security of one’s wealth and fortune. And once power is acquired, their main preoccupation is holding on to power, by hook or by crook – mostly by crook. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most common symbol adopted by dictators is a closed hand, a clenched fist – a hand that is unwilling to give, always wants to get, to hold on to something never to let go, and all too ready to inflict harm on anyone who gets in its way. Consequently, the system of patronage, guns, gold, gold, cheating, vote buying, political dynasty and all kinds of crooked ways have become institutionalized in our society. The entire political system is corrupted. The only way to bring back sanity and moral order in our country’s political system is conversion of hearts. Unless the Philippine citizenry is spiritually enlightened and morally upright, we will continue to elect and support corrupt politicians who will eventually hurl our country to irreversible destruction.
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