The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (12:16-21)
This coming week we will celebrate the holiday called Thanksgiving. In the life of the Church we celebrate thanksgiving each and every time that we come together for the Lord’s body and blood, for holy communion. From the Greek we receive the word Eucharist, which literally means “thanksgiving.” We call it thanksgiving first because we are told that the Lord Jesus Christ lifted the bread and “gave thanks” to His Father before He gave it to His disciples.
We also call holy communion “thanksgiving” because this is the sacrament that reminds us to give thanks for all that God has done for His people and all that He has done in our lives. We come together as the people of God to celebrate the victory of Christ over sin and death and this is a cause for joy and giving of thanks. This sentiment and life of thanksgiving reaches it’s pinnacle during the divine liturgy each and every Sunday, as it has for 2000 years. But the attitude and sense of thanksgiving should transcend the physical walls of the church building and this sense of gratitude should permeate everything we say and do. Each and every time that we get together as Christians, whether inside the church or outside the walls of the church, we give thanks and celebrate because God created us, because God loves us, because God has forgiven us and redeemed us, because God has made us to share in His glory and made us partakers of His grace.
In today’s holy gospel we hear the parable of the Lord regarding the rich man who had abundant crops and abundant wealth. This story is really about gratitude or the lack of gratitude. The man had so much that he literally couldn’t hold anymore in his barns and grain bins! Instead of giving thanks and showing gratitude by being generous, or by sharing with others who were less fortunate, the man thought only of what he could do to prepare for his own future comfort. But the Lord called him a “fool.” That is a very serious word. What made the man foolish? He was foolish because he assumed that tomorrow was guaranteed. But we have no idea about tomorrow. I recently heard the true story of a man who retired after working most of his adult life and before he retired he and his wife made many plans. On the very day that he officially retired. The day after his last day, he died. We make plans but God is not bound by our plans. This is why we say “Lord willing” or “God willing” instead of assuming things in life.
St. Maximos the confessor writes, “There are three things which produce love of material wealth: self-indulgence, self-esteem and lack of faith. Lack of faith is more dangerous than the other two.
The self-indulgent person loves wealth because it enables him to live comfortably; the person full of self-esteem loves it because through it he can gain the esteem of others; the person who lacks faith loves it because, fearful of starvation, old age, disease, or exile, he can save it and hoard it. He puts his trust in wealth rather than in God, the Creator who provides for all creation, down to the least of living things.”
Above all else our faith will dictate our gratitude and sense of thanksgiving and this will dictate where we focus the energy of our lives. If we are thankful and content then we will not constantly look to purchase the newest, the biggest, the shiniest. Are we people who are content? This doesn’t apply only to purchasing things. It applies to every aspect of life.
For instance, when we are faithful then we are also thankful for the people in our lives and we understand that they are gifts from God, we won’t think to discard them or replace them even if they aren’t perfect. After all, you aren’t perfect either! If you want to give yourself a gift don’t replace the people in your life, replace your sins and passions with virtues. The virtues will open your eyes and help you to see that God is working tirelessly in your life. This will then lead to heartfelt gratitude instead of grumbling. Then your work will be truly beneficial.
The one who is rich towards himself is ultimately very poor. A good example of this is Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol.” He saw everyone as a leech and a beggar. He was lonely because everything focused on himself. But when he was brought low, he then realized that what he received was a gift that could be used to bless and share life and joy with others. Even the poor became a great gift to him.
Christ desires those who are rich towards God. Rich in what way? In every aspect of their lives. Rich with their resources, rich with their attitudes, rich with the energy and efforts that they give to living a godly life and to serving and helping others. The one who is rich towards himself says “how can I further enhance my life?” He might even say “I am the source and creator of my own happiness.” I’m sure some of you have heard such words. But tthe one who is rich towards God says “how can I show thanks for all that God has done in my life?” He might say “My God why are you so generous with me, when I am a worthless servant?” He or she will be thinking constantly about how they can show love to others and use their gifts to show love to Christ, to His Church, to those in need.
I leave you with a quote from St. Gregory the Theologian. He says, “Seek to distinguish yourself from others only in your generosity. Be like gods to the poor, imitating God’s mercy. Humanity has nothing so much in common with God as the ability to do good.” – St. Gregory of Nazianzus, On Love of the Poor