‘I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones’. The farmer had a good year and his ambitions soared. But he wasn’t able to handle success. He started to focus on ‘bigger and better’ only. He ignored any other consideration. He cleared room in the Amazon forests without thinking of the effects.
In other words, he thought only of himself. He became greedy. An adage of the socialist movement is, ‘the world can provide for people’s needs, but not for their greed’. I am old enough to have witnessed the surge of Communism in the nineteen forties and fifties and how it was contained in the sixties, the surge of nuclear weapons – the ‘arms race’ – in the seventies and how it was restrained in the eighties, the surge of multinational corporations in the eighties and nineties and how it was tamed in recent decades. But I am deeply worried about the present surge of ‘progress’ which is destroying our planet.
‘Record-breaking’ temperatures are recorded day after day. The ice caps are melting and methane gas is released at levels never reached before. The Secretary-General of the United Nations says ‘the will to tackle the crisis is fading’. We are like people on the Titanic who see the danger ahead but do not change course.
When Jesus gives us the parable of the greedy farmer who thinks nothing of the future – least of all that he might die that night – he observes, ‘a person’s life is not made secure by what he owns’ and he says ‘beware of avarice of any kind’. And elsewhere, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’.
How can we change our way of thinking? The advertisers want us to buy newer and better gadgets all the time. People do not even think of repairing fixtures, machines, plumbing etc. It is too complicated and time consuming. Throw it away and buy a new one.
You, who are reading this, have heard all these many times. But our gospel today does ask why we are ‘so slow to believe’? All the evidence is mounting up and we – well, a powerful number of us – still carry on creating the conditions that are inexorably destroying us. We are like smokers who say, ‘you have to die of something’. That is hardly good enough. It is not me, as an individual, who is dying: it is everyone on the planet. And we are destroying our – that is, the generations that will follow us – future too.
Can we contain, restrain, tame this thing? It is the question.
4 August 2019 Sunday 18 C
Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) 1:2, 2:21-23 Colossians 3:1-5,9-11 Luke 12:13-21