Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the Mass readings for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 31, 2022.)

What is most valuable to us, to me?

It’s a good question to consider. It is probably a question we should be asking ourselves periodically as we go through life. Jesus often invites us to consider the question. He does it in a variety of ways. Today’s Gospel account is one such example.

The basic teaching, in Jesus’ words, is this: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

He uses the parable of the farmer to illustrate his teaching. It’s a simple story, very easy to relate to. The farmer has a great harvest, so large he does not know where to keep it. He has what he considers a brilliant idea – tear down the barns and build bigger ones. His thinking is that after he does this, he will have enough “stuff” with which to sit back and enjoy life.

The irony of the story is that he will die that night and all those efforts will have been in vain. The material goods he piled up are ultimately valueless. They will not last.


The theme from Qoheleth resonates here: “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity.” The most worthy pursuits in life, the things that are truly valuable, are those that endure forever.

In other words, they are part of the kingdom of God. For the most part, these “things” are not material goods or possessions. Some examples are love, mercy, faith, hope, truth, kindness, compassion and charity. So Jesus invites us to reflect on the things that we value most in life and to put our values in right order.

The invitation to consider the question of what we value most in life is not unique to this parable. In many and varied ways, Jesus asks us to consider it. The repetition of the theme in the Gospels seems to suggest that there is something about human nature that wants to hold on to the tangible, to be in charge, or to find security in what we can measure. While this might seem innocuous, Jesus suggests otherwise.

A quick search on the internet will give some vivid current day stories on how easy it is to place possessions at the center of our lives. I found one article that listed a rather grotesque illustration of some extremely wealthy people who “loved” their cars and made arrangements to be buried with them. One of these persons bought twelve graves side by side so as to be buried in their Cadillac.

Another article about self-storage units perhaps hits home a little more closely. According to the Self-Storage Association, by 2005 there was 1.9 billion square feet of self-storage space in the United States in nearly 40,000 facilities. The article also noted that 1 out of 11 home owners has space in a self-storage facility.

A further interesting point was that between 1973 and 2004 the average American house grew from 1,660 to 2,400 square feet. The author concluded: “So let’s get this straight – houses got bigger, average family sizes got smaller, and yet we still need to tack on almost two billion square feet of extra space to store our stuff?”

Accumulating possessions is certainly an easy thing to fall into. The time and energy we spend in this effort may not even be noticed because it has become such a regular part of life. Jesus is challenging us to consider that this kind of behavior may be an indication that our values need to be looked at and reconsidered: “Where does all this stuff fit into our view on life, its purpose and import?” “Am I consumed as I consume?” “What is the direction of my life, what motivates me forward?” Perhaps these questions might help us consider the issue.

Jesus urges us not to be defined by our possessions. In the next passage, he describes in beautiful ways how valuable we are to God – not because of what we possess, but because of who we are: his children.


Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.