An old man lived quietly and contently in a cabin in the woods. He was beloved by the people of the town. His door was always open to anyone in need; he taught generations of children the wonders of the woods and streams and pond.
One day the old man was approached by a group of businessmen. A vein of valuable copper had been discovered on his plot of land. They wanted to buy his property. Money meant nothing to the old man; he just wanted to live in peace in his little cabin. He declined their offer. A fortune was to be made here, they argued, as well as jobs for the people in the town. But the old man would not budge.
When people heard about the copper and the prosperity it would bring to their town, they turned on the old man. Their anger grew. They finally threatened him, “Unless you’re out of this place by sunset, we will drag you out.”
Sunset came, and the old man was still in his cabin. When the mob came to the cabin, they were met at the front door by the town’s parish priest.
“The old man realizes he is going to die before this over,” the priest told them, “and he asked me to come out on his behalf and read you his last will and testament.”
The crowd fell silent and waited impatiently as the priest began to read from a piece of paper.
“I leave my fishing rod to you, Pete,” the priest read from the old man’s will. “You caught your first fish with it when you were seven. I leave my shotgun to you, Jim. I remember how I taught you to shoot with it. I leave my tin whistle to you, Sara, grateful for all the beautiful melodies you would play on it.”
And so the list went on. The old man left his few possessions —his knife, his cooking pot, his worn Bible — to the person it would mean the most to.
And one by one, the people of that town hung their heads in shame and returned to their homes in the silence of the night.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to look at what we consider wealth: is it the amount of “stuff” we amass in our “barns” or is it the satisfaction and productivity our possessions enable us to experience? Often something’s true worth has nothing to do with its monetary value or the momentary pleasure it gives us. Its value is in the memories it preserves, in the time it saves us for more important and joyful pursuits, in its enabling us to experience the selfless and affirming love of God in the good it enables us to do for family and friends. The old man risked his life to make his neighbours understand that perspective of true wealth in their own lives. Jesus calls us to take inventory of our lives and the things that “clutter” them and refocus our attention on the things of God: compassion, mercy, forgiveness, consolation.