Monday, 1 August 2016


No comments :

The Inutility of the futile venture of selfishness

By Michael Okpala 

The transiency of life is most felt by those who dine on the transient table of material selfishness. Those who are so attached that they find in material riches some succour and relief to the point that they know and recognise only the world of themselves. Aesop was one of the greatest storytellers in ancient Greece and in one of his fables, a fox once saw a crow perching on a tree branch with a piece of cheese in her beak and thought to himself: “That’s for me, as I am a Fox”.
He moved to the foot of the tree and cried out:” Good-day, Mistress Crow, how beautiful you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eyes. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds.” The Crow fell for the trick and opened her mouth to sing. In the process, the cheese fell off to the ground and the fox had succeeded in literally outfoxing the Crow. He quickly snapped it up and said to the Crow: “In exchange for your cheese I will give you some advice for the future: Do not trust flatterers”. This story captures the essence of the theme that runs through today’s readings – the vanity and futility of selfish acquisition. These selfish acquisitions flatter us so much that we so trust in them and confer ‘godship’ on them. Without Christ as the centre and the goal of our life, we labour for nothing.

The meaning of life cannot be found in possessions but in the sharing of time, treasure and talents with the needy. Possessions and riches are not bad in themselves but our attitude towards them is the crux of today’s readings. In the first reading taken from Ecclesiastes 1:2, we are reminded that the greedy acquisition and the selfish hoarding of goods are useless because when the hoarder dies he goes to eternity empty-handed, and his heir gains, and perhaps destructively squanders his so-called hard earned riches.

In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), the Psalmist challenges us to listen to God and allow Him to soften our hearts that we may share our blessings with others. The Psalm Response urges, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 95: 8). It is the voice of Christ that urges us to share and not withhold our treasures. Christ is God and God is Love. When we allow love to rule the use of our possessions only then would we hearken to God’s voice. A voice that soothes and promises eternity to those who hearken to it.  In the second reading, Paul directs our attention to lasting Heavenly treasures and warns that greed for wealth and influence is idolatry.  He advises the Colossians, “Put to death, your parts that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” (Colossians 3: 5). Paul here was quite aware that Sin begets sin and that material selfishness moves in chains and thus attracts the other vices above. But when the idol of greed and selfishness is conquered by love, the other vices will be systematically annihilated.

In today’s Gospel also, Jesus, telling the parable of the foolish rich man, warns the disputing brothers, and us, against all types of greed, because greed takes our life’s focus away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people. Jesus says that God called the greedy rich man a fool not because the man had possessions and was financially successful but because he never saw beyond himself, he never saw beyond this world, he wasn’t rich in what matters to God ( which is Love) and thus, only the person of himself (‘ I and My’) mattered most to him. He neither thought of his workers nor anyone else. He felt that the world of his possessions conferred eternality on his soul thus, warning that our eternal life does not consist of earthly possessions (Luke 12: 15), but in its equitable and loving sharing. 

We live in a culture that caters to our desire for immediate and narcissistic gratification. A gratification that rebuffs the good of our neighbour. This gratification respects and pays dutiful allegiance to the Epicurean and pagan motto and orgy: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Jesus thus instructs us on the folly of greed and selfishness, while also teaching the need to accept the anti-epicurean motto of “Let us share for tomorrow we shall die”.
Indeed, to depend so idolatrously on the fleeting and ephemeral possessions of this world is like taking a good seed to plant on a bad soil. That is, taking riches which are good in themselves and planting it on the bad soil of selfishness and greed—a futile venture indeed.  This is fertility in futility and sure it’s by-product is a futile seed.
          As we hearken to the voice of Love which is the voice of God, a voice that implores us to share and not just to acquire, May the Lord bless his words in our hearts and fructify them through Christ our Lord Amen.

No comments :

Post a Comment