+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit +
We heard in today’s Gospel about a fabulously successful farmer. He’s rich, and he was becoming even richer because his land was producing a bumper crop. So, what happens? The rich guy is bombarded with logismoi. We know that because Jesus describes it - “he thought to himself.” Actually, the Greek says “he thought within himself.” He took a demonic thought, embraced it, and took it into his heart, and made it his own. And what is the result of the thought, the logismos? It caused him to focus, selfishly, only on himself! He thinks, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’” He’s totally self-interested, self-absorbed, self-centered, isn’t he? He becomes, at the devil’s instigation, a hoarder. He hoards because he thinks that this is the goal of life: to rest, to relax, to eat, to drink, and to be merry.
There are three problems with this: First, he is going to die, and then what will become of his riches?
The Second problem is this: the rich man’s attitude is selfish, and blind to the poor, and yet he is pleased. To this St. Ambrose says to us, "Wealth, which so often leads men the wrong way, is seen less for its qualities than for the human misery it stands for. The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor. In truth, even if the voice of the poor were heard, it would be ignored.” St. Basil adds, “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help."
The third problem with the rich man’s attitude is his belief that his material wealth will give rest to his soul. He’s wrong. It’s a deception. He has deceived himself. Saving and saving, buying and buying, accumulating and accumulating will not bring rest to anyone’s soul. Don’t be fooled. The only thing that happens when you accumulate more and more is that your soul becomes desperate for more and more. The soul finds no rest, and so it becomes unsatisfied and spiritually dead to Grace, while our neighbor, our brother, our Church, starves.
St. Paul expected the imminent return of Christ when he said “The time is short, so that from now on, even…those who [buy, should be] as those who did not possess…for the form of this world is passing away.” In other words, we need to live in such a way that we do not allow our current possessions, dealings, and life-situations to keep us from Christ. This world is passing away, and Christ could come tomorrow. He might not. But He will come to us all, individually when we die. He will come like a thief in the night. We will not know the day or the hour. We must not allow ourselves to be caught spiritually asleep. The time is short for us. The time is short for our parish. The time is short for this world. We need to drive off the selfish logismoi and buckle down, chip in, ante-up; and not just with our finances, but with our commitment as well. The time is short. Blessed Seraphim of Platina used to say, “It’s later than you think!” The time is such that we need flee the empty self-indulgence of the rich man, and rather, conform to the likeness of the self- emptying Christ. It is time to live with the riches and pleasures of this world as though we did not have those things. See, when we live like the rich man, like the world, we have to make hard choices: Online Vespers or the Hallmark Channel, sleeping in or the Divine Liturgy, reaching out to the community or grasping for ourselves, tithing or building bigger barns, excuses or solutions, the world or the Church, ourselves or God, ourselves or each other? The choice is the way of this fallen and distorted world which leads to death, or the way of the Cross which leads to eternal life. When we live from the cross, from our baptism, from the empty tomb, we don’t have to make those decisions, because we already know that for us “to live, is Christ!” We don’t even have to ask the question “this or that” or “A or B?” because as Orthodox Christians we have already made the choice.
In his famous book, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” St. John Climacus provides this example:
There was once a monk, a negligent monk, who paid no attention to his soul. After a time, the monk become ill, to the point of death, and left his body for an hour. When the monk came to himself he sent everyone away and shut himself up in his cell, motionless, for twelve years; speaking to no one and eating only bread and water. When the monk was again about to die, the brethren came to him and asked many questions, but he said only this, “Forgive me! No one who has acquired the remembrance of death will ever be able to sin.”
Only by dying to our selfishness, breaking our self-indulgent pride, do we come to the point of truly living out our baptism - the death and resurrection of Christ. Only by picking up our cross and dying to ourselves daily, with each breath and thought, only then will hoarding farmer within us die and our souls find everlasting rest. Amen.