Ordinary 18th Sunday – DECORATED COFFINS

Ordinary 18th Sunday

Ecc. 1: 2; 2: 21-23                                Col. 3: 1-5, 9-11                        Lk. 12: 13-21



Too much of focus on material wealth will lead us towards self-destruction.


Desire for Wealth:

It was an executives’ meeting. As the meeting was progressing, all of a sudden, a genie appeared to the leader and told him, “I would like to give you a gift. You can choose any one: infinite wealth or infinite knowledge or infinite beauty.” With all eagerness, he chose knowledge. The genie said, “Granted.” All the other executives surrounded him and requested him  “Now you are full of knowledge. Say something to us.” He said, “Well! I should have chosen money.”

The so-called wise people of the world think that the more they have, the happier they are! So they  relentlessly pursue wealth as is the case of the rich man in the gospel. There are plenty of people in the world who think that the  primary aim of their life is to accumulate and amass wealth and nothing more. They act as if that they are here to prove their self-identity by mounting up wealth. In fact, these people consider possession more than their own lives. They are ready to sacrifice their health, family, relationship etc., in order to become rich. Once a rich man was passing by an uncrowded street, when suddenly a thief approached him and told him, “Either your life or your money.”   The rich man coolly said, “Take my life. I need money for my old age.” This is the type of self-contradictory lifestyle many live. They are ready to lose their present in order to assure themselves of a safe future.

Inadequacy of Wealth:

John D. Rockfeller was a millionaire. He had amassed enough and more for his life. At 53, his life was a wreck. He was sick physically, mentally and emotionally. Millions of dollars could not give him happiness.  The realization dawned upon him that money was not the most important thing in his life and it was not the answer for his crisis. He stopped accumulating wealth and began to give away it for charity purposes. He founded Rockfeller Foundation. Later on his attitude towards money completely changed. Once someone asked him, “From where did you get such an immense wealth?” He simply answered, “God gave it to me.” This understanding led him to share it with others.

All that the material wealth can give us is a little more comfort and a sophisticated life-style. But one should be careful enough not to confuse comfort with happiness. Those people who obstinately seek only wealth and comfort in their life, at some point or the other, realize that their wealth and comfort have nothing to do with happiness they long for. It is at this point they lament, “Sheer futility: everything is futile.” The words of the book of Ecclesiastes  “Sheer futility: everything is futile” should not be a cause for developing a pessimistic attitude towards life. Rather it should help us to develop a clarity of perception towards life. We have to live our lives in such a way that we do not have to often grumble that life is a futile one.

Forms of Wealth:

One of the main reasons why many of us often grumble about life is because we have a distorted notion of wealth. We think that money and possession are the only forms of wealth in the world. But today the word ‘wealth’ is understood in a wider context. Money and possession together form what is called ‘material wealth.’ There are also other forms of wealth. A person who takes care of his body considers his own health as the wealth. There are people who have mastery over their emotions and are adept at handling their emotions. These people possess emotional wealth. There are also persons who possess sharp intelligence and are able to see everything from a different perspective. So knowledge is also a form of wealth. Above all, there is something called spiritual wealth – awareness of God’s presence in our lives, a value-centred life, a Spirit-led life etc.. (St. Paul calls this wealth, in the second reading, as the ‘things that are above.’)

It has to be kept in mind that, for a life of happiness, all these different types of wealth should find their place in our lives. A person who over-emphasizes material wealth and disregard other forms of wealth, as the rich fool in the gospel, runs towards one’s own self-destruction. According to Upanishad, a person who is materialistic, accumulates only wealth and does not care about his inner self, is like a coffin. A coffin is well-decorated outside with costly items, but what remains inside is  dead. Quite often our life is boring and dull. We don’t do much to change it. However we try to decorate the outer aspects of our life with all sorts of material artefacts.  Well! however well-decorated it is and however costly it is, a coffin is just a coffin.

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