Feast of St. Paul of the Cross

Luke 12: 13-21
Eph 2: 1-10 / Ps 100: 1-5

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for though one may be rich, a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
(Luke 12:15)

All wealth in life is an illusion,
Gold here on earth is in heaven dross;
If your faith lies in your possession
A greater treasure will be your loss.

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Friend, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasures for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12: 13-21)

Reflection

Our Lord’s preaching was rudely interrupted by this man who was more concerned about his worldly desires rather than the eternal lessons that our Lord was teaching. In response to his impudence, our Lord took this occasion to warn His listeners to be on guard against the sin of avarice. A man in the grip of greed or avarice is usually one who is concerned only of himself, and has scant regard for others. The rich fool in Jesus’ parable made no mention of gratitude to God or others for his good fortune, nor even plans to share his bumper crop. In fact, typical of a shrewd Shylock, he even decided to hoard the harvest so that he could get a better price, instead of flooding the market to benefit the consuming public. Much like the greedy stockbrokers of Wall Street, whose manipulations of share prices were largely responsible for the financial crisis now affecting global markets.

Jesus warns us against greed not only because it is a major obstacle to eternal life, but because even in this life, it serves no practical purpose, and can even lead to our financial and social ruin. His words can’t be more relevant than in today’s global economic meltdown, which many analysts believe is the result of the insatiable greed of the wealthy few who irresponsibly manipulated the world’s financial resources. These power brokers, consisting of housing developers, oil barons, bankers, industrialists, and big-time stock traders took liberty with depositors’ and tax payers’ money, and speculated in real estate and the stock market, creating the artificial spiraling of the prices of stocks, real estate and oil, earning for them fat commissions and untold wealth. Their lying schemes and lust for more wealth had so blinded them that they failed to see the inevitable bursting of the sub-prime housing bubble that they had created, and the collapse of the stock market, along with thousands of bankruptcies and worldwide unemployment. Millions of investors have lost their life savings.

In the darkness of this economic depression, and in the light of today’s Gospel message, it may be relevant to reflect on the life of St. Paul of the Cross, whose feast we celebrate today. The son of a wealthy merchant family in Genoa, St. Paul turned his back on a large inheritance left by an uncle who was a priest, and the prospect of an honorable marriage, and chose instead to live a life of poverty and penance, following the life of Christ in His passion and cross. Considered to be one of the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century, St. Paul of the Cross founded the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or more commonly known as the Passionists. His ideal, as he taught his followers, was to become “a man totally God-centered, totally apostolic, a man of prayer, detached from the world, from things, from himself so that he may in all truth be called a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Lest, having too much I deny You saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or being in want, I steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov. 30: 8-9) Thank You, Lord for the lessons You teach about the evil of greed, and for the example of the life of Your servant, St. Paul of the Cross. Amen.

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