If you have ever stopped and asked yourself ‘what is it all for?’ then today’s readings are for you.
Every once in a while when we stop and think and get out of a busy time in our lives, holiday time for example, we are forced to stop and think. Sometimes a period of rest (and even retirement) can take getting used to. We are so compulsively busy and want to fill our days with activity that having time on our hands can make us edgy. Yet when we stop, where are we? Sometimes we can be gripped by feelings of loss, feelings of a sense of confusion, of losing our way. Often we can keep ourselves busy and engrossed in work and projects, in order to avoid the ultimate questions of existence such as: what is my purpose? Why am I here? Life itself is short, we often hear, and what is it all about anyway?
The things we consider important may not be so. We get lost in the detail that we forget the meaning of what we are doing. It kills us to think that what we have been concerned with may not have been all that important in the greater design of things, and that we are economically expendable. All retired or even, increasingly, unemployed people sadly, have come to this gloomy realization ‘that I can be done without and that I will soon be forgotten in the workplace’. Fulfillment in work has been taken from us and has been given to another. It can lead to frustration, bewilderment, and even disillusionment.
Escapism is the great danger. One of the ways in which we try to cope is actually to avoid the hard questions of life. We try to hide and run away from truly engaging with others and living the vocations to which we are called. The constant temptation to turn in on self. Because of Original Sin we are inclined to selfishness and we need God’s grace to overcome that selfishness in all of us. We become accustomed to suiting ourselves. To amass enough of the world’s earthly goods so that we are self-sufficient, without having to trouble or to be troubled by anyone else, is the rich man’s folly, Christ tells us in the Gospel parable today.
Hedonism is another danger. To live for the passing pleasures that the world can offer. Happiness and pleasure are mixed up. The things that offer happiness prove elusive and unsatisfying. St Paul refers to this as ‘earthly life’ - without Christ. The Christians in the first century found it difficult to break free from temptation to fornication, impurity, guilty passion; evil desires greed, telling lies. Twenty-first century Christians are beset with the same temptations.
Wealth and possessions do not give happiness and we have all come to the realization that they are passing things and of dubious value. Ecclesiastes refers to a busy active life without ultimate meaning.
There are therefore 3 possibilities, only one of which can give us lasting happiness and eternal salvation
1. A carefully planned, profitable but anxious life, concern only for sound economically prudent savings and investments (or ‘bigger barns’), careerism, where money is our rule of life.
2. An ‘earthly life’ of giving into our base impulses to satisfy our baser cravings –giving into the deadly sins of avarice, anger, lust and living an immoral life- where pleasure is our rule of life
3. ‘Life hidden with Christ’, in other words, ‘interior life’ of prayer, reflection, spiritual reading, charity in speech and generosity with our time and resources – all of this is making ourselves rich in the sight of God. ‘Looking for the things in heaven’. Salvation therefore must be earned and are the wages or ‘pay packet’ we should be concerned about most of all. Procrastination is not an option, Jesus warns you and me.
The challenging question we have to ask ourselves is –how many hours am I putting in?