The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (12:16-21)
Our Lord Jesus Christ loves us so much that He does not desire that we should live in delusion. He does not desire that God’s people should live under illusions. He tells us that it is only the truth that will set us free. The Lord loves His people with such fervor and depth that He grants them knowledge of the truth, even when it is painful, in order that He might correct their hearts and their eyes and give their lives meaning and purpose. This is one of the takeaway points of today’s gospel reading. We should order our lives in reality and with a vision towards our true purpose in life.
St. Mark the ascetic writes, “Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort.” “On the Spiritual Law: Two Hundred Texts” No. 54, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)
We encounter a man who is journeying without direction in today’s gospel. A man who is working hard but ultimately wasting his efforts. Like the man that plans to drive to one destination with his family but takes off in the opposite direction. He will never get there. He claims to desire one thing but his actions demonstrate something else. The man in today’s gospel reading is wealthy and he has worked hard and been fruitful and now he would like to have an even larger place to store all of his crops. He would like to say to himself “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”
But something unexpected happened. God intervened and called him “Fool!” Take note that the Lord Jesus tells us that we should never ever call another man a fool, and we will be judged by our words, so only the Lord can declare someone a fool. But after God called this man a fool what did He say next? He corrected the man saying “This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” And here is the whole point of the matter. What was the purpose for which the man was trying to live? Was it for God or for himself? No doubt, he would say that it was for himself, yet even in this he would be wrong. Our Lord gives us a spiritual principle when He declares “he who desires to save his life will lose it, and he who desires to lose his life for the gospels sake and for my sake will save it.”
This man was hoping to save his own life, through working, and saving and working and saving even more. He had everything, humanly speaking, yet he lacked the one needful thing. It is not wealth or produce or savings or our comfort that will ultimately bring us eternal joy and life. All of these things that I’ve mentioned can be taken away. Indeed, they must be taken away because we will not be around to enjoy them forever. The Lord tells the man that all of his work is for nothing because it is not rooted in something eternal and everlasting. The work and the life were not rooted in God. They were rooted in self and pleasure and these distract us from the truth and purposes for which we are meant. This reading is not ultimately about the person who has riches or wealth stored up. Sometimes we are financially poor but have the same inner state as this man. We can be rich with pride, or talents or physical beauty or knowledge and intellect, or power and position. There are many ways to be rich, but none of these will help us unless we are rich towards God first.
All of these things I’ve mentioned are rooted in self and pleasure and they distract us from the truth and purpose for which we are meant. What is that truth and purpose?
St. Theophan the Recluse writes, “The chief end of our life is to live in communion with God. To this end the Son of God became incarnate, in order to return us to this divine communion, which was lost by the fall into sin. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we enter into communion with the Father and thus attain our purpose.”
Our chief end (or aim) of life is to live in communion with God. That’s it. The rich man’s aim in life was comfort and rest. So he lived his life by making this goal a reality. He saved crops and when he couldn’t possibly store any more, he wanted to tear down the barns and build even larger ones.
If our aim of life is to live in communion with God, we have to be a bit like the rich man. We have to plan tolive our lives in such a way that this goal becomes our reality. This man planned and saved. You and I must also plan and save. Father, what are we saving and where are we saving it?
My dear friends, we are saving up the virtues and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We are saving within our hearts and souls and this savings is transferred into the heavenly kingdom on our behalf. Imagine that somebody came to you on the day that Apple stock first went public and they said to you, “here is a gift, one share of Apple stock.” What if they said to you, if you call me everyday, and say hello, I will add another share of stock to your account, but there is only one catch: I will not let you know when you can have access to what is in that account. It is completely yours but you may not touch what is saved there until a mystery date in the future. Would you agree to such a proposal?
Our Lord makes a similar proposal with each of us. He says to us on the day of our baptism “My child, I am giving you a share of my inheritance. It is yours, and every day that you reach out to me and speak with me, I will put more into your account.” However, we will even have a foretaste of the riches and inheritance inthis life. The spiritual fruit is so abundant that it affects every aspect of our lives. Let us work diligently to save and to store spiritual riches. How can we do that? As we are now in one of the major fasting seasons in the life of the Church it is good to remember that our fasting is not simply to abstain from foods but to serve and help others in need. Let us help others while we have the ability to do it. St. Augustine quoting Proverbs 13:8 writes that “The redemption of a man’s soul is his riches.” He continues saying
“Obviously he was not redeeming his soul by giving relief to the poor. He was hoarding perishable crops. I repeat, he was hoarding perishable crops, while he was on the point of perishing because he had handed out nothing to the Lord before whom he was due to appear. How will he know where to look, when at that trial he starts hearing the words “I was hungry and you did not give me to eat”? [Mat 25:42.] He was planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting and was proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor. He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns. What he was stowing away in those barns was perhaps even then being stolen away by thieves. But if he stowed it away in the bellies of the poor, it would of course be digested on earth, but in heaven it would be kept all the more safely.
Let me conclude with a quote from St. Ambrose of Milan, he writes, “The things that we cannot take away with us are not ours either. Only virtue is the companion of the dead. Compassion alone follows us. It is the guide to the heavens and the first of the mansions. Through the use of worthless money, it acquires eternal dwellings for the dead.”
So be hopeful my friends, live with a purpose directed towards Christ and let every aspect of your lives fulfill that purpose so that you can stand on the day of judgement and hear the Lord’s words “Come you blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” This is our inheritance. Amen.