Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - You Can't Take It With You

Robert Barron - You Can't Take It With You

Robert Barron - You Can't Take It With You

Peace be with you. Friends, all three of our readings for this weekend speak of a primordial spiritual truth, one that I've mentioned frequently, maybe I've even harped on it with you. But that's okay, because I think it's so fundamental in the spiritual life. I'm talking about the need to detach oneself from the goods of the world. Let me say it again. To detach oneself from the goods of the world. Now mind you, this has nothing to do with a hatred of the world. This is not a, what they call the "fuga mundi", a flight-fromthe-world spirituality. This is not Puritanism. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about knowing how to wear the goods of the world lightly because they're not our ultimate good. They are good. They're wonderful. They're lovely. There's all kinds of good, true, and beautiful things in the world.

But they're not the ultimate good. And we're not meant to cling to them as though they were. I think the Bible and the great spiritual tradition teach this truth over and over again because we don't get it. Now let's begin with the first reading; I love this book of Qoheleth from the Old Testament. Some older folks might remember it was called the book of Ecclesiastes. "Qoheleth" means something like "the assemblyman" or "the churchman," something like that. Qoheleth. But he's identified as King Solomon, King Solomon in old age.

Now this means someone who's had it all. King Solomon, I mean, he's the most kind of, from a physical standpoint and from the standpoint of wealth, the greatest figure in the history of Israel. Nobody was richer. Nobody was more famous. Nobody had better accoutrement and clothing and palaces. So Solomon's the paradigmatic rich man, if you want, in the worldly sense. But now he's an old man looking back on all of it. And what does he say? It's like the refrain to a song. It runs right through the book of Qoheleth. "Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity"!

The Hebrew word there for vanity is "hebel," and it has this sense of like wind or vapor. Even some people say bubbles. It's like a bubble that floats around, then boop, it's gone, right? It's there for an instant, and maybe it's very striking and remarkable, and then boop, it's gone. It's like wind. It comes and it goes. There for a time and then gone. He's experienced everything. I mean, power and sensual pleasure and honor and wealth, all these things. But he's focused now in our reading on wealth. Listen to him: "Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave all his property".

Now, it's a typical old man's reflection, isn't it? I've heard people in the course of my pastoral ministry say exactly this. "Hey, all my life I built up this business. I worked twelve-hour days. And I gave my whole life to this. And I made my money, I made my fortune. Now I'm an old man and I'm surrounded by ungrateful children and ungrateful grandchildren. And I've done all this work, and yet these people are going to inherit all my wealth. What's it all been about"? Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity. So what do you do? Do we just say, "Oh, there's Qoheleth, despairing".

There's a cranky old man in the nursing home who's just reached a point of despair. No, no, no. This book's in the Bible, and so it's teaching us a very important spiritual point. One should realize, listen now, everything in this world finally has this quality of evanescence. Disappears. It doesn't last. So yeah, I've labored like crazy, built up this business, made a lot of money. Yeah. Good, good. That's a good thing. But it's not going to last because you're going to fade away and it's all going to go to somebody else. I don't care how great your business is. It's not going to last forever. It just won't. I don't care how much wealth you have. You're not going to have it forever. It's going to go to someone else who probably doesn't deserve it and is ungrateful.

Should I just be depressed then? No, no. I should be detached. Yeah, it's good. Wealth or power or pleasure or the esteem of other people. Good, good. Take it in and then let it go. Enjoy it, sure, the way you enjoy a firework going off. Think of, it's fourth July and there're fireworks and then boom, there it is. Look how beautiful, that burst of light and color. And then it's gone. Do I despair? No. I just kind of learn to live in that present moment, savoring what I can but also letting go. Why, why? Because I realize that the true good, the truly beautiful, belongs to a higher world. I can sense it in these things, in beautiful things, in wealth and honor and power, the good things of the world. I can sense it, but none of the things of the world last.

And so if I cling to them, what happens? They disappear. They crumble as I try to grasp at them. Rather, see them, appreciate them, and then let them go. Okay, against that background coming from Qoheleth, let's turn to the Gospel. And it begins with a person coming up to Jesus. And he sounds like, trust me, there's somebody right now in a law office in our country who is saying the same thing. He says, "Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me". Obviously, it's a family squabble. The inheritance has come from dad or from grandfather or whatever and now the kids are fighting over it.

Does that sound familiar? I can name people right now that I know who are in exactly that position. They're fighting over the inheritance. And they come to Jesus as though he's like a judge. What does the Lord say to them? "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions". Now, greed for wealth, for material things, sure. But he says greed in all its forms. Because I can be greedy for honor. If someone honors me and I get kind of a buzz from that, but then it wears off, doesn't it? Because, well, I need to be honored by somebody else. I need even greater honors. The little honors have gotten so far, they don't satisfy me.

Then I strive and strive and I get more honors. But then that buzz wears off too. And now I need more and more and more. What happens, everybody, is I get caught in an addictive pattern. Yes, when I cling to the goods of the world, they crumble. But see, then what happens is I say, "Oh, oh, I better get more". And then I reach for those and they crumble. And then I start panicking and I'm reaching for more and more and fill in the blank. Wealth, pleasure, honor, power, whatever it is. And each time they crumble. But now I'm obsessed. See, that's the greed that the Lord's talking about here. Avoid it in all its forms. Wear the world lightly. Stop clinging to it and hanging onto it.

Now, he has this beautiful parable, and believe me, everybody, this has sort of haunted my own spiritual life, this parable. It's about a rich man who accumulates lots of wealth, and he builds these big barns to accommodate it. And he makes more and more, and he says, "Well, what shall I do? I know. I'm going to tear down that barn and build an even bigger barn which I can fill up with my possessions". Well, what's going to happen inevitably? He'll build the bigger barn and then that one's going to get filled up. And he'll say, "Now what do I do? Well, I better build a bigger one".

See, this is someone caught in this addictive pattern. The more you cling to the goods of the world, the more you become imprisoned to them. Here's the parable Jesus tells: "But the Lord said to him", to this rich man, "'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?'" It's that same idea, isn't it? I spent my whole life building up this business, my whole life accumulating wealth. And now what? It's going to go to ungrateful descendants of mine. I can't carry it with me into the next world. It crumbles as I cling to it. So what was the point? The Lord says, "This night your life will be demanded of you".

I think it means, yes, you're going to physically die. But I read that more spiritually, too. It's the Lord's going to say, "Well, what has your life been about"? And you say, "Oh, it's about these big barns. Look at them. Look how impressive they are". The Lord will be completely unimpressed by that. Wear the world lightly. Cultivate an attitude of detachment. Okay, now with Qoheleth and that parable in mind, let's turn briefly to the second reading from St. Paul. Paul to the Colossians says this simply and bluntly: "If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, and not what is on earth". There it is in a nutshell.

Now, again, don't read that in a sort of puritanical way. Paul's a good Jew. He loves this world. He thinks the world is good. God made this physical world and he found all of it very good. So this is not a flight from the world, not dualism. It's not that, not that. It's the proper spiritual attitude of detachment. If my eyes are focused on Christ, that means on the true, the good, and the beautiful that do not fade away, that are not like air and bubbles and vanity of vanities, if I keep my eyes fixed on Christ, that which is above, then, listen, then I will know how to handle the goods of the world as they come to me. I've known some very wealthy people in my life who are saintly. It's not wealth in itself that's the problem.

But they know what to do with their wealth. They know how to wear it lightly. They know how to become generous with it, etc. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ above, and then you'll know how to handle and deal with the goods of the world. If you're focused like the guy in the parable building bigger barns, if you're like the young Solomon just running after wealth and power and sensual pleasure, you'll become bitter, empty, angry. Let me close with this line from my great spiritual hero, Cardinal George of Chicago. And it's one that people quote a lot. I think it'll become a kind of classic quote. He says, "The only thing you take with you into the life to come is what you've given away on earth".

Let that sink in and it'll change your whole life. Let me say it again. "The only thing you take with you into the life to come is what you've given away on earth". What don't I take in? My degrees and my honors and my money and the big barns I have filled with things, and I was once king of the world. Who cares? None of that matters. None of that will be carried into the next world. What you will carry into the next world is the quality of your love. That's what heaven is, it's love. And therefore he's dead right. It's what you give away on earth that you will carry into heaven with you. It's the attitude of detachment and generosity. So don't worry, everybody, about building bigger barns. How much time most of us spend obsessed with that, some version of building bigger barns. Forget about it. Rather, I use the Lord's language, build up your treasure in heaven. Then you'll find joy. And God bless you.
Are you Human?:*