The "BBC" BATTLES
by Deacon Paul Rooney
- a reflection on Luke 12:13-21 (Aug. 4 gospel)
Jesus tells a story today about a man who had so much wealth accumulated that he decided to build bigger barns just to hold it all and have room for more. The bad news is that this man was one-dimensional; he paid no attention to his soul, devoting his time only to his bodily comforts and increasing his earthly possessions. God calls him a fool, because the man will not live to enjoy any of his hoarded wealth, nor had he stored up any treasure in heaven. In fact, one could speculate that his inattention to his soul might be leading him to an overly-hot afterlife.
Avarice or greed shows up in many forms. It can be an accumulation of real estate; a desire to expand a stock portfolio; bank accounts at home and overseas; a collection of antiques or collector's items; even a desire to have more power and control.
In any event, when the buildup of goods or power becomes disordered, it becomes one of the Seven Deadly Sins we call Avarice. It is a disordered passion since it is directed toward some good which may be lawfully acquired, but it has been pursued with unreasonable eagerness or without reference to God. Such is the case with our gospel person's life that we are reflecting on today.
It is so easy to point the finger at the rich man, tearing down barns to build bigger ones so that he can acquire still more possessions. But wait a minute: are we forgetting the BBC Battles going on in our own home, in our own consciences? Are we perhaps guilty of focusing too much on our Bank accounts, our Basement stockpiles, and our groaning overstuffed Closets?
This is a True story: years ago, I knew a man who worked for the same company as I did. He bragged about having 365 dress shirts in his closets! Now I ask you, how much is "enough"? Do we really need a new shirt for every day of the year? How about our own closets. Is one closet enough for you? How many shirts (or dresses, ladies) do you have, or how many pairs of shoes? How many boxes do you have in the basement that you have not even looked into in, say, the last five years? Could this gospel story today be about us? Oh yes!
"Desire" is one of the eleven "passions" we all have, and it can lead us astray if we permit it to do so. Bad passions cannot be entirely subdued here on this earth, but they must be mortified and thus rechanneled to duties of virtue. Mortification is all about regulating and ruling our passions, our evil inclinations, and our disorderly self-love. The rich man in our gospel story is an example of someone with a disordered passion. Mortification, like Penance, is a useful means of cleansing the soul from past faults. But it's main purpose is to safeguard us from sin in the present and future, by lessening in us the love of pleasure (of many kinds). It is not a "negative" thing! It is getting rid of "self" in order to allow Jesus to live His life in us, and to enable us to share His life fully.
The key is to rechannel our disordered passions and make them work on behalf of virtue. For example, this disordered passion of "desire" that the rich man has: he needs to reflect on the truth that created things cannot satisfy his soul; only a personal relationship with Jesus can do that. Furthermore, he needs to deliberately turn his disordered desire for "more" into a desire to help others.
So maybe we want to take another look in our Basements or Bank accounts or Closets, and see if we have been closing our eyes to a common but deadly disordered passion. Always remember the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Behave accordingly and engage in acts of mortification. As strong as our passions are, they can be "starved into submission and conquered."
Many Blessings to you on your spiritual journey!
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