Sunday July 31

Pilgrim’s Progress…the Ultimate Meaning

Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21 – 23
Psalm 90
Colossians 3: 1 – 5, 9 – 11
Luke 12: 13 – 21
“Someone in the Crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the
inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and
arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “take care to guard against all greed, for
though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful
harvest. He asked himself. ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my
harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build
larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself.
“Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat,
drink, be merry!” But God said 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.”

Today we are all easily worried and anxious of the future. What will be next, what will
be tomorrow, what will come of these next months and years? We live in a very
unsettled ways, trying to secure our lives, our jobs and families, even to the point that
we desire control over everything.

The rich man of Jesus’ story represents the worrier within us, trying to make his life
secure and lasting. He filled his barns, then built new barns and filled them too. He

surely thought he could enjoy himself without worry. He had found the ‘safety’ he was
out for. But Jesus saw in him not only a coward, but only if he found the ‘security’ he
was working for. But Jesus cuts through his vanity, seeing the rich man for a fool. He
had purchased his security, but it was one that would be of no advantage to him, not on
“This night your soul is required of you.” There is no security except the security that
God provides. One’s life is made secure not by things, but by the triumph over things.
And this triumph does not consist in a hard-won independence over one’s environment
or a solitary self-sufficiency; it is not an achievement of self-discipline, though self-
discipline is certainly involved in it. It is the consequence of joyous participation in a
new order of the Spirit. It is the gift of God, and thanks be to God, who gives us the

“Take life easy, relax, cool down and enjoy life.” These words contain a whole
philosophy of life and many of us follow this pernicious ideas. Like cancer, it eats into
and lays waste persons, families and nations of the world. The wars in many parts of the
world, climate change the ambitions of people around the globe – all these pose threats to
the whole of humanity. No one and no nation that pursued power and pleasure has come
out unscathed. Everyone and every nation that has excessively prospered in materials
things was, in the end, reduced to ashes. The things we seek so persistently, work for so
perseveringly, grip so passionately and cling to so possessively will one day slip through
our fingers and we shall have the sad consternation of seeing our hands and hearts
empty, our life meaningless, futile. Everything we valued will have vanished into thin
air, evaporate like the morning mist.

The root meaning of the word in Hebrew for ‘vain’ is vapours, thin air, shadow, “vanity
of vanities. All is vanity …(Exccl 1: 2; 2: 21 – 23. A shadow’s shadow, a world of
shadows,” declared Solomon after tasting all that human eyes could covet. “How are we

the better for all our vaunted wealth? Nothing of that but is gone, unsubstantial as a
shadow” (Wis 5: 8).

We are only pilgrims on our journey to the Ultimate. Earthly things are transient. They
are the ‘vanity of vanities, identified in the Scriptures. We have to leave behind one day
all that we procured and stored up. The earthly life of a man is like sleep at dawn; it is
like grass that sprouts green in the morning and by evening it is dry and withered. As
the Psalmist puts it, ‘seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong; most of
them are sorrow and toil; they pass quickly, we are all but gone’. “Teach us to number
our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart’. ‘Fill us at daybreak with your
kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious
care of the Lord our God be ours.’

In our Gospel today Jesus presents the parable of the rich man, who procured and
hoarded wealth and possessions by using his intelligence and industriousness, he was not
wise enough to hold them and use them in a proper way. To answer the legitimate
question of life, ‘what should I do with all the material goods and wealth I possess?’ a
fool makes a practical and conservative choice. In this, he surely uses his intelligence.
But God tells him that he should use something more than intelligence, namely wisdom.

He wants him to use the earthly things in God’ standards and not in human standards.
He should use them with a sense of responsibility and accountability before God, the
Creator and Provider. He should be blessed by the blessings of God rather than, being
cursed by them.

During this journey whatever blessings come to us in form of material things, properties,
riches and wealth are to be handled with great respect for future life and God. They

should be utilized for higher goals and purposes since, as Saint Paul writing to
Colossains (3:1 – 5, 9 – 11) “Brothers and sisters: if you were raised with Christ, seek
what is above, where Christ is seated at the hand of God. Think of what is above, not of
what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When
Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory”. As the Lord
Himself put it: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his
very self?”

Jesus leaves us to judge ourselves how we deal with material goods. Are we typical
consumers, as the world calls us obsessed madly by buying and selling? Do we keep
God in our mind and heart, in our dealings with these transient earthly goods? Though
we live healthy, self-sufficiently, and intelligently, do we use our talents, gifts, time an
treasures as stewards of God for making others in the family and community happy and
living? After our death what are we going to leave behind us? Is it only our broken,
self-gratified bodies? Or are we ready to leave behind something meaningful, joyful for
the future generation to live a better life?

To heed the warning of Jesus’s parable and offer our lives for the ‘riches of God’
requires great strength. The world and the Church needs strong men and women. There
is a plethora of strong opinions in the world, that’s for sure today. But what the world,
and the Church, hungers for is men and women who are witnesses to the values of the
Gospel, not to the drama of their own wavering opinions. Where we are proud of our
strong opinions, and we hold tight to them with apparent strength. Those kinds of
displays of false strength are merely embarrassing. Rather than strong opinions, let us
try the humility of the truth. That comes with poverty…. and courage.
God bless!