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C’mon Down a Step

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(8-01-10) Earlier this summer an intimate friend told me: "Paul, I’m not trying to pile a guilt trip on you, but I wonder: Haven’t you gone overboard on you love of books. I know, man, that you’ve always enjoyed sharing ideas that come from your reading and praying. But those books ---they’re almost crowding you out of your home". I laughed: "Frank, . I know that if I were married and the children had taken wing, my wife would probably agree with you. She might even say that ‘next thing, I’d be complaining and dreaming about building bigger barns to house my books.’ But, it hasn’t gone that far." Frank smiled knowingly.

For years now I continue to question myself before I give the "okay signal to, in buying a book. I ask: will this book --whatever it may deal with - ministry, spiritual life, insights on scripture or the church; , ideas from my pleasure reading in philosophy, poetry, World War II history or English or Russian literature or an occasional current novel-- will this book assist me to grow, to deepen, and somehow help others---in our mutual search for beauty, truth, and goodness? Or is my buying any new book simply an expression of greed?

That question, friends, lands us squarely on today’s gospel passage. Luke describes Jesus, the teacher of wisdom par excellence, giving us insights on greed.

The greedy rich man in the story or parable secures no benefit from what he has acquired. Neither he nor his heirs gain any positive results. He has to learn to live by the biblical teaching that "The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who live there." (Ps. 24:1).

Jesus never tells us that the only way to heaven is to sell all that we own.. He simply teaches you and me: "Get rid of anything that prevents you from following God, from accepting his love for you.

I suggest that Jesus in his teaching encourages you and me to consider our trying to have a simpler life style. The goal is to free us from our "so-called need to have more and more"—a goal constantly "gushed up" by our consumer culture.

Imagine that we now find ourselves on a ladder. Our longings to acquire more and more cause us to climb upward on that ladder. "Upward mobility" is the name of the game. The competition at time becomes fierce. It’s ---every guy , every gal for themselves. We focus on our own well-being—and that of our and friends and community. Those ahead of us on the ladder become a threat to us—at times even pushing us back. In our "upwardly mobile" climb we begin to judge ourselves not in terms of "who we are—human beings stupendously loved by God the Father through Jesus." Rather we judge ourselves in terms of what we have or do: our job, our salary, or what we produce. We lose touch with ourselves. The celebrities, the models are ahead of us on that ladder. The losers, the homeless, the unemployed, the refugees, the have-nots are below us.

If we think at all of the poor, we may become somewhat frightened and try to scramble more quickly up the ladder in our effort to get away from the losers. The motto becomes "what’s best for me?" In our "upward mobility" climb we have become slaves of our longings and lose our freedom. In our society and in our church we have to be constantly aware of the losses involved in always climbing higher.

If we find ourselves caught up in the "upwardly mobile" climb—in the "building better barns syndrome", we need to encourage ourselves or, hopefully, have genuine friends encourage us to take a "downwardly mobile" step to simplify our lives and become "free again", reclaim our identity as beloved by God, and genuinely love all others as we love ourselves.

Read other homilies by Father Paul