On the Rich Man Who Planned to Build Greater Barns.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Rich Man Who Planned to Build Greater Barns.
Represent to yourself the rich man, imagine the satisfaction, the self-complacency with which he contemplates the abundant harvest his lands have produced. He already foresees that his barns will be too small to contain all the fruits of the earth with which God has blessed him. He calculates and deliberates as to what he shall do, and he makes his plans as if he had yet many years to live.
1st. Consider the rich man’s good fortune. We read in St. Luke’s gospel: “The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits.” (xii. 16.) That rich man was covetous and godless, yet God bestowed on him copious blessings. If you look around you in the world, you will find as a general rule that the ungodly are not unfrequently very prosperous. Jeremias says: “Why is it well with all them that transgress and do wickedly?” (xii. 1.) And Job asks: “Why are the wicked advanced and strengthened with riches?” (xxi. 7.) St. Gregory the Great gives us an answer to this. He says it is for this reason, in order that more severe chastisements should one day be the portion of those who in this life are not touched by the bountiful gifts they receive. Their prosperity is at the same time a proof of God’s bountiful kindness and His terrible justice. The just God of His bounty chooses to reward them here on earth for the little good they do, that He may punish them all the more hereafter; He seeks to win them by His beneficence before He is compelled to interpose with His judgments. But as for the most part the ungodly do not understand His charitable design, the ease and affluence in which they live is nothing more or less than the repast provided for criminals on the eve of execution. No more than you would dream of envying the condemned criminal or of counting him happy because of the dainties set before him, ought you, my soul, to envy the wicked on account of the luxury and comfort they enjoy. You ought rather to feel hearty compassion for those unhappy sinners. And should you yourself be one of the ungodly who prosper in this world, say, how can you possibly sit at ease at this last meal of the condemned?
2d. Consider the rich man’s temporal disquiet and trouble. His eyes have not long dwelt with complacent delight on his fruitful lands and abundant crops before the anxious thought arises in his mind: “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?” (v. 17.) Behold, St. Basil says, even in the midst of abundance this man is uneasy and solicitous: his temporal goods cause him vexation, fear, perplexity. The ungodly, for all their wealth, their vast possessions, are strangers to real peace. How just therefore is what we read in the Imitation of Christ: “Many weak and shortsighted men say, Behold how well such a man lives, how rich he is, how great, how mighty and powerful. But fix thine eyes on heavenly goods and thou wilt see that all these temporal things are no goods at all; but are very uncertain and rather burdensome, because they are never possessed without care and fear.” Were you, my soul, given to see the distress, the, anxiety, the trouble of the heart that beats beneath a gorgeous purple robe; could you listen to the words of woe, the painful consultations that are to be heard within marble palaces; could you take the bitter drops which a guilty conscience, harassing cares mingle in the worldling’s cup of joy, you would give God thanks and rejoice in your poverty and the lowliness of your position.
3d. Consider the rich man’s end. “I will pull down my barns and will build greater; and I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thy rest, eat, drink, make good cheer.” (v. 18, 19.) Such is the singular reflection wherewith the fortunate rich man composes himself to sleep. In regard to this St. Basil exclaims: What folly, what frivolity! Hadst thou had a soul like that of the swine what worse thing couldst thou have said? But what happened to this man of increasing wealth? “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul; and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (v. 20.) Such are the words God speaks to him. How quickly has everything been altered for this unhappy rich man! How speedily has the terrible truth formulated by holy Job been fulfilled in his case! “They spend their days in wealth and in a moment they go down to hell.” (Job xxi. 13.) Of what use to him now are his barns, his fertile lands, his plans and projects? One night, one unlocked fornight robs him of all, and he passes in a moment from temporal to eternal night. my soul, with this deplorable end before your eyes, do not strive to be rich in earthly goods, but lay to heart our Lord’s words: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.” (v. 21.) Now he is rich towards God who does not possess an abundance of gold and silver, but who is rich in virtue, in the love of God and of his neighbor, in good works. Ask yourself whether you can call such treasures your own. Of them you may, you ought to have an abundance; and in regard to these spiritual fruits it is well for you if you can say: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years.” Can you utter these words with truth?
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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