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Planning The Future?
Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, take away from me now everything that distracts me from praying. I am here, and I am yours.
- The Desire to Possess Things: When a person faces a good of any kind–an object, a value, another person–he or she not only experiences the desire to enjoy it, but to possess it. It seems that this is related to the human capacity for reaching out beyond the present moment into the future. I call that projection. We understand ourselves not simply in the light of what is, but, at least as much, in the light of what will be. That is why people build barns: to guarantee that they will be able to rejoice in their goods in the future. The Gospel prompts us to reflect about our tendency to look ahead. Quite compellingly, Jesus points out that our future is really not as much in our control as we like to believe it is. I don’t think he wants us to be indifferent about the future. On the contrary, the capacity to project is crucial when it comes to living our lives and becoming who we are called to be. But, on the other hand, we have to check our urge to indiscriminately grab and store up the goods put before us. What barns have I built for the future and what kinds of things am I storing there?
- The Temptation to Greed: God often presents us with goods that he wants us to share, invest, or even give up. Putting everything into a dark barn may feel safe for the moment, but it’s only appropriate if that’s what God has intended for us to do with it. We have to be discerning regarding our drive for possession. What feels “right” can be deceiving, and can turn into greed, compromising the goods that we were hoping to protect. We’re called to recognize that everything we have comes from God, and that we are merely stewards of these gifts. “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
- Life Does Not Consist of Possessions: We can all sometimes fall prey to the desire to measure our self-worth by our possessions. In the culture, we often idolize those with great wealth. Wealthy people seem to have it all. But Christ warns us in the Gospel to reject this assumption. Life does not consist of possessions. What matters is how well we love. As Mother Teresa told us, “There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love” (A Simple Path). Our ultimate success will be measured by the love we share with others. “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, my life is filled with goods. Above all, I want to thank you for this “bountiful harvest.” I realize that many of these gifts are fundamental for my life, and I also acknowledge that none of them are guaranteed to last. In fact, what of it will last for eternity, Lord? My heart relishes the goods that make me happy. My nature urges me to continue to provide for that happiness. And yet I know nothing can guarantee it but you. I beg you, yes, I beg you, Lord: Fill me with the theological virtue of hope, so that I really rely completely on you when it comes to the future. I hope in you and that means you alone are what I want to hold on to. I want to fill the barns of my heart with your goods alone.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look over my possessions and ask: “Among everything that I have received, what is the most precious in the light of eternity?”
For Further Reflection: “Romano Guardini relates in his autobiography how, at a critical moment on his journey, when the faith of his childhood was shaken, the fundamental decision of his entire life–his conversion–came to him through an encounter with the saying of Jesus that only the one who loses himself finds himself (cf. Mark 8:34ff.; John 12:25); without self-surrender, without self-loss, there can be no self-discovery or self-realization. But then the question arose: to what extent it is proper to lose myself? To whom can I give myself? It became clear to him that we can surrender ourselves completely only if by doing so we fall into the hands of God. Only in him, in the end, can we lose ourselves and only in him can we find ourselves. […] It is all summed up in the prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola—a prayer which always seems to me so overwhelming that I am almost afraid to say it, yet one which, for all its difficulty, we should always repeat: ‘Take O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All that I have and all that I possess you have given me: I surrender it all to you; it is all yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more’” (Pope Benedict XVI during vespers on September 8, 2007: Complete address).
Written by Father Gabriel von Wendt, LC.