July 31, 2022 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Ecclesiastes 1, 2; 2, 21-23 + Psalm 90 + Colossians 3, 1-5 + Luke 12, 13-21
Living as I do in what is often referred to as “East Naples” makes this Gospel very real and the message of Jesus very troubling. Some of the folks who live up in North Naples actually refer to this part of town as “Storage Town.” The number of climate-controlled facilities in this part of Naples is astounding, and we know that one reason is that those other parts of Naples would never allow them to be constructed in their sight. The other reason is because people everywhere think they need them. In my neighborhood there are two car garages for every home. It amazes me how many cars are parked outside all the time, and we know why. When there is a popular TV show called “Hoarders” we know that what this Gospel addresses is no longer considered a sin. Now it is entertainment, and what’s wrong with that?
It is, of course, as much about power as it is stuff, and it is the power that corrupts. This past year we’ve heard a lot about Oligarchs and the power that they wield, the influence that they leverage to keep things just as they are and secure their privilege and power. What we must not lull ourselves into thinking is that the only Oligarchs are in Russia. If you stop to think about it, you could name some of them here and if not them, at least the industry names they hide behind.
Our cultural climate of materialism always suggests that having the most stuff equals success and promotes admiration. Sadly, it is true. It also permits contentment and sometimes opposition to justice and a deliberate deafness to the teachings of our church and the voice of the Gospel.
Years ago, I served a parish that actively supported an orphanage in Haiti, and I would visit there from time to time. The first time I was struck by the fact that many homes had no doors. At first, I ignorantly thought it was for ventilation until my priest friend and host reminded me that doors were not necessary because there was nothing to steal. What a contrast to our neighborhoods where have doors, locks, security systems, and gates. I’m left to wonder when I proclaim this Gospel who Jesus is speaking to. I don’t think it is Russian Oligarchs today.
We are invited today to ask what our lives consist of. Poverty is not a social issue. It is a moral issue, and for us, Poverty is a virtue. It must be chosen, not be the consequence of a broken or protected system that makes and keeps people poor. As a virtue, it becomes a way of relating to things and to people. It is virtue that when embraced brings a kind of freedom that is unimaginable to those who are anxious and worried about how to protect what they have and get more.
There is simple and profound old saying that whatever is not given is lost because what we have not given will be taken when we die. What we have given away will escape corruption for it has been sent ahead into eternity. That’s really the only way to keep something. Send it ahead.
This Gospel passage began with a word that brought me back to my childhood and the spats and arguments that sometimes erupted between me and my sister. It was always over sharing, and I can remember clearly how impatient and frustrated my parents could become when we didn’t share. It was and still is a simple lesson on how to have peace, harmony, respect, and even hope, because living with someone who shares always offers a promise.
Nothing can more effectively divide and polarize us than greed whether it is the greed of power or the greed of wealth. Yet, in the midst of this world’s turmoil as long as people of conscience are breathing, hungering for and committed to sharing, hope remains alive, and it is that hope that we celebrate today.