18th Sunday Readings USCCB http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080419.cfm
There is an old saying, “If you owned everything in the world, where would you put it?”
While we have not acquired quite that much it seems that our solutions include shelves that are bowing at the weight of all that’s on them; closets filled to overflowing; things precariously stacked in any empty space; garages so packed that cars are parked on the street; offsite self storage units on every block or sheds in backyards… all because we have and hold too much stuff.
Overabundance plagues much of humankind. Packrats and hoarders are not uncommon. The more we consume and possess the less there is for others. When we have more than we need, those in need have less available to them.
The man in the Gospel is blessed with and abundant crop and he sets course to accumulate more. His barns are already filled to capacity- which suggests he already has an address on easy street but he wants more. He’s looking to move on up, to head to Boardwalk or Park Place on the Monopoly Board. Never satisfied, his thirst for more is never quenched, he is insatiable. More, more, more is his answer.
He wants to feather his bed and live comfortably for years to come. He says to himself,
“I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
He is set for life, but the irony is, as God explains 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 all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”
He is set for life for sure, but his life is only a few hours longer it seems.
The Gospel is not about the need for estate planning, perpetuating the family business, or identifying beneficiaries it’s an insight into the role of possessions.
The Social Teaching of the Church are the lenses through which we view society and guide our interactions with society-people and things. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we are given a “both/and” balance between “private ownership” and the “universal destination of goods.” These realities coexist side by side because they are both required.
In Genesis the stewardship of the earth is given to humankind for the good of all. The exercise of “dominion” over the created earth implies a stewardship that God intends. This mutually beneficial stewardship is the basis for the universal destination of good—all the earth and its good for the benefit of all. The Catechism, in paragraph 2403, calls this universal destination of goods “primordial” meaning “existing at or from the beginning of time.”
The right to private ownership is acknowledged in paragraph 2402:
“… the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge.”
We live in this world with the tension between accumulating and sharing.
How do you balance private ownership (your right to acquire and own) with the needs of others and the common good?
What is intended in stewardship of the created world as “God intends”? How close do you come to this desired stewardship?
What does it mean to be “rich in what matters to God”?
When do you have “enough” and when can you share?
Is your accumulation excessive? How do you know?