There's a widespread belief nowadays that "things" are getting worse. Fading away is the optimism of the past--based in a blind faith in "progress"--that every day in every way things are getting better and better. But exactly what are these things that have seemingly taken a nosedive into an apparently irreversible downward spiral?
Many of us (myself included) bemoan the spiritual decline and moral bankruptcy of this nation (and the world in general), which have especially accelerated during the past few decades--and this is certainly a valid concern that should prompt every committed Christian to "put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
On the more mundane level, however, there is an inevitable likelihood that sooner or later (and probably sooner) our entire economy will collapse into the dust. Yes indeed--it does seem like difficult economic times are on the way, and I would say that it is this scenario that concerns most people more so than our continuing moral decline (though the rampant greed and selfishness of contemporary society that have contributed to our financial woes is in itself a moral issue).
But not to worry! I am frequently receiving in the mail offers for financial newsletters and "free" reports that will explain to me not only how I might survive the coming hard times--but even to profit from them! If only I follow this advice, I can--at the very least--live my retirement in comfort, but at best--I might even become filthy rich!
The problem is--I'm already 65. My body aches, my energy level is depleted and I no longer find a great deal of pleasure in the ordinary things of this life. It may be I'll live another 20 years... but so what? Like my elderly female parishioners back in Pennsylvania used to tell me, "Oh father... don't ever get old!" Stupid me: I never listened to their advice. Threescore and seven, as the Good Book says. Anything more is likely to be toil and tribulation.
Now don't get me wrong: building up a nest egg for retirement is both sensible and responsible. But has it ever occurred to you how much time and energy we expend in this life in order to assure for ourselves a comfortable and pleasant life in this world? But yet this life we live is merely a pilgrimage, a preparation for our ultimate destination in eternity. Would you, for example, order cheerful drapes and a plush carpet for a one week stay in a motel?
The man in today's Gospel has been blessed with an abundance of provisions, and he has no room to store it all. Whatever shall he do? Well... he could open up his barns to the poor and destitute, or perhaps sell a portion of his goods and contribute to worthy charities. By this means he would show himself to be merciful, even as his heavenly Father is merciful. After all, it was surely God Who blessed him with such an abundance. But no--his solution is to tear down his barns and to build bigger and better ones in order to provide for his own future--that he might eat, drink and be merry. But the joke's on him... this very night God will demand his soul!
And even if he were to live for many years more, what profit does he gain ultimately from all of this eating, drinking and merriment? For truly whatever temporal enjoyment we may achieve in this world, it will soon enough wither and pass away--like grass in the midday sun. And so it is when we lay up for ourselves treasures on earth--and are not rich toward God.