I was asked one time what your biggest fear in life is? After giving it, some thought I said, “that I put a long time and effort into something, and it would be all for nothing.” Maybe we can relate to that in our own lives. There are things that we set our minds to, that we set our effort and heart. We go above and beyond and even exhaust ourselves because we say “one day, this will all be worth it.” I can imagine the New Orleans Saints felt that way all season than the rug is pulled out from under them by a missed pass interference call. My hope is that when I grow old and I approach my own death I can look back on my life and say it was worth it all of the time and effort I put into those important things.
The author of our first reading has found that much of his time effort and hard work was for nothing. We may have heard his famous line from the reading. “vanity of vanities. All things are vanity.” To put it another way for the author of Ecclesiastes, everything he did in life was meaningless or at least had little worth or value. He explains that at the end of our life, all of the hard work that we put into to gain wealth, wisdom, and everything else will be handed on to someone who didn’t work as hard but will be able to enjoy the spoils just as much as you did.
The same could be said for the man in the parable from the Gospel. He worked hard all year round to have an abundance of crops that he had to build more barn space to store. However, it would be that same night when he planned to expand his barn space that his life would be demanded of him. He saved all of the crops for himself and because of his untimely death he was not able to enjoy any of it, and just like in Ecclesiastes someone who didn’t work as hard will enjoy the spoils.
How in our lives do we make sure that the efforts that we put into our lives are something we don’t look back on with vanity or that we end up like the rich man who had to hand on all of his excess to someone who didn’t work as hard? St. Paul provides an answer to that question. He tells us; “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Our challenge is to become focused on the things of heaven and to put our effort, our minds, and our hearts into the things of God. The problem with the rich man isn’t so much that he had an excess, but rather that he was concerned for himself, he was concerned about earthly pleasures rather than serving God and serving his neighbor. How hard would it have been for him to store up what he needed for himself and then take the excess and share it with the poor and the needy or even just his neighbor? If you remember from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains that when we feed the least of these we are feeding not only the poor and the hungry, but we too are feeding Christ himself.
Jesus is using this parable to remind his listeners of the importance of caring for the poor and showing love for the needy. There is a heavenly reward when we do good works for the poor when we feed the needy or when we are charitable to others in need.
The simple truth is that one day we will pass from this life and go before our Lord. No matter how successful in our life we have become, no matter how big our bank accounts are, or how many possessions we have. God wants us to be rich in the things of heaven and not the things of earth.
How can we be rich in the things of heaven? We can do that by coming to Mass regularly and receiving Jesus in the eucharist. We can have a relationship with our lord seeking to become a friend with him. We can do it as I said before in love and care for the poor and the needy, when we serve the poor, we serve our lord. We can become rich in the things of heaven by becoming familiar with scripture and so many other things.
All of us will lose things at the end of our lives. We simply can’t take the earthly possessions that we have with us into heaven. However if we spend our lives loving God and our neighbor we will build up a heavenly reward that will await us when we reach the pearly gates. The challenge God gives all of us through this parable is to put our time, our efforts, our hearts, and our minds into the things of heaven.