In Jewish tradition, the eldest son often received the greater share of the inheritance and perhaps, especially in poorer families, received it all. Today we see a younger brother feeling cheated out of what wealth he could possibly gain in the world, all because of custom or maybe the favoritism of a father that is pitted against him.
In any case he gets more than he bargained for: a rebuke against greed. Jesus indeed is this man’s judge and arbitrator, but not in such earthly matters; thus Jesus warns him of greed and its spiritual danger. “There is more to life,” Jesus says, “than your possessions here on earth.” The man in the story is prosperous here on earth, but enters into the next life utterly impoverished.
Jesus is saying by way of a parable that we cannot or must not enjoy the good things of this life; rather, we are to keep them in proper perspective, bearing in mind always the life that is to come. St. Ignatius—whose feast would have been today were the Resurrection of Jesus not more important!—puts this lesson in his own words in the Spiritual Exercises when he gives us the First Principal and Foundation, saying:
“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it…desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.”
We are made for more than the pleasures, wealth, and entertainments of this world; we are made for heaven, for an everlasting communion of love in and with God. The man in our Gospel had lost sight of this and forgot that “you can’t take it with you.” He was so focused on obtaining an inherited wealth that he was blind to the treasure that lay before him: Jesus. It is so easy for us to lose sight of what seems far off—our encounter with God at the moment of our death—and focus on what seems always to lie just out of reach—our worldly security—all the while looking right past the Jesus who stands immediately before us, constantly offering Himself as the fulfillment of not merely our deepest desire, but our most essential need.
Let us take a moment today to thank Jesus for everything He has given us in this life and promises in the next, particularly the gift of Himself that we have received today at Mass. May nothing in this world blind us to its immense worth.