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Castle Howard

BARNS AND MANSIONS

The mistake of the rich man wanting to expand his barns and increase his capital was not that he planned ahead. We should think about the future, and in this world money will nearly always be part of our future. His mistake was to think only of his own future, and  of his future in this world only.

He forgot that no man is an island. He forgot that we all have spiritual and material responsibilities not just to ourselves and to our nearest and dearest, but also to our neighbours, and to the wider community. We need to keep in mind the needs of others when dealing with our money and our property, and when we plan for the future. Those who are blessed with sufficient have a responsibility to be mindful of those who have nothing.

The parable of the rich man and his barns is not a swipe at capitalism. Nor is it a hint of approval for communism and its derivatives. The rich man’s greatest mistake was to forget the reality of the life of the world to come. The parable’s message is simple: avarice is a form of idolatry, and idolatry is no way to prepare for the next world.

Elsewhere in the gospels our Lord says: in my Father’s house are many mansions. Will there be one for each of us?  What will our mansion be like? The mansions we will occupy in eternity are constructed mainly out of the spiritual and moral building blocks that we send on ahead of us while still alive on earth.

If we could see in advance how our celestial residence is progressing, how would it look? Is the work well under way, or are we still only laying the foundations? We should not presume too much. Perhaps the mansion we’re building for ourselves beyond the River Jordan will be less like Castle Howard and more like a  backstreet bed-sit with no electricity and a leaky roof.

The gospel parable exhorts us to use wisely and charitably whatever good things come our way in this life. Then, when we are called to leave our temporary lodgings here below, we may hope that He Who is charity in Person will be waiting to welcome us into the mansion that He has prepared for us.

Fortunately for us, the Lord does not leave the architecture of those many mansions entirely in our own clumsy and grubby little hands.