Grace to you!
From the First Book of Maccabees chapter six, we read the following story about King Antiochus:
“As King Antiochus was traversing the inland provinces, he heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold, and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon, the first king of the Greeks. He went therefore and tried to capture and pillage the city. But he could not do so, because his plan became known to the people of the city who rose up in battle against him.”
Before his attempt to raid Elymais, the greedy King Antiochus had invaded Judah. He usurped much of the land and property of the people. He equally defiled the temple in Jerusalem changing the name to the temple of Olympian Zeus. He turned the temple into a place for harlotry and brought into the temple many things that were considered abominable and defiling to the Jews. There were no limits to his greed. (Read 1 Maccabees 6 for some of these details).
The psychology of greed is so subtle that the greedy hardly see it. One may say, when I make one hundred thousand dollars, I will be set for life. When the person reaches the six figures, that person wants to make a million bucks. From a million to two, five… We suppose by making our dream seven figures, the desire to get more will stop. Actually, it increases even the more.
They say the law of having is increased by having. When is enough enough? No one agrees. The natural tendency is to want more and aspire for more. Wanting to acquire more isn’t bad. There is nothing wrong in wanting and working for the best for ourselves and for our family.
It becomes greed when we do not care if our ambition goes against justice and charity. When we step on others’ or trample on those on the way to our ambitious desires, that is greed in action. It is equally greedy when we want more and more of what we don’t need and hoard it to ourselves, only for our egoistic passions. It is greedy also when we destroy others because we think what they have or what they will get should be for us alone.
Greed is a terrible vice. In our traditional Catholic spirituality, it is numbered among one of the seven deadly sins. Though it is deadly, the temptation to greed itself seems natural to us.
Antiochus could not stop the greedy allures. He heard about any gold, he wanted it. Guess what? He paid for it in the end.
No sooner had people from Elymais pushed him back, than he equally heard that Judah had revolted and forced his army in Judah to retreat. He suffered shock, became depressed, and finally died. He reached that point when his empire built on greedy ambitions could no longer hold together.
The lesson here is that greed does not win us friends. It makes enemy. The greedy may be powerful and seem untouchable for some time. It won’t last because anyone who has suffered due to greed would someday revolt against that greed or it’s history. The pain greed causes individuals and society is huge. The pain caused by greed cries to heaven too.
Greed is one of the passcodes to an unhappy death. The greedy realize that at the time of death, they lose control of everything and all they forcefully or fraudulently took. At the dying moment, the greedy realize that nothing we have goes to the next world with us. We completely lose control of all the things we hoard. All of us will surrender to the powerful hand of death. The pain this causes the greedy at the moment of death is unbearable.
We don’t need that pain. Detachment is key. Self-control is another. Keeping life simple is one of the ways to happiness. There is no need to burden the heart and the soul with too much stuff that does it no good. In the end we realize none of the material stuff we hoard follows us to the grave.
I pray we find happiness, not in the material stuff we have, but in being human made in the image and likeness of God.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 33A: 1 Mc 6:1-13; Lk 20:27-40]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.