August 5, 2007


Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. – Luke 12: 15

Family inheritances today have the same destructive potential they did in our Lord’s time. Inheritance squabbles happen among the poor, but the rich seem to take to it with particular verve. It is not a battle over the necessities of life, but of excess.

The dream of riches that will secure life & make us happier is built into our bones. We are deaf to the warnings of every spiritual tradition that his way of securing life is futile. Greed can take many forms: it can covet money, fame, sex, power, etc. But the appetite of greed is always the same. It eats yet remains hungry. One is never satisfied by the attainment of our desire. We always need more, but when we get more, it is not enough, so we pursue again. Greed is an endless search for more that always leave us empty rather than fulfilled. Recent episode of “The Journey Home” (EWTN):

The guest was a young man who had grown up in a home where God was never mentioned. He was never baptized & never went to church. His mother remarried after a divorce & repeated the process yet again. As a teenager with a second step-father, this young man went wild. He indulged all of his appetites to excess: booze, drugs, promiscuous sex, violence & crime. Finally, when he was 20, he found himself sitting on the edge of his bed one evening wanting to die. His life seemed totally meaningless & empty. If this is all there was to life, he wanted no part of it.

Due to all the grief he had caused his mother, she had done some soul searching of her own & became Catholic – attending Mass regularly. That is why she had a book on Marian Apparitions on the shelf. He found it that night & read it. Even though he did not understand much of the terminology, he grasped enough to realize that here was the clue to what had been missing in his life. With time, he not only became Catholic himself, but entered the priesthood.

Once greed is triggered in a person, its fierce energy is difficult to curb. So Jesus told His petitioner not to even get close. Greed is waiting for the opportunity to sneak past lax defenses & seize possession of the house. If one is not on guard, he will awake one day to find himself inhabited by what he did not ward off.

Greed is always self-defeating because of its goal. It does not merely want more of its object. It projects on its object the power to secure life, a power it does not have. “Life” can mean physical survival, or it can mean a sense of meaning, or zest, or inner calm. Life in any of the above senses does not consist in accumulating anything, for life cannot be possessed.

By definition life is more than we are, so our fist does not fit around it. Grabbing is not how it is held. We must beware this false promise that is so wildly attractive, & Jesus will not let us forget it. That is why the so-called “Gospel of Prosperity” preached by some TV evangelists is so dangerously misguided. Our Lord knows full well that prosperity is our greatest enemy.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He said. Such people know they are poor, that they need new life, & that they must depend upon God to have it. That is what the young guest on the Journey Home show discovered the hard way. Have we learned the lesson yet?