40 days to Freedom

Day 36


 "Freedom from Avarice"

by Fr. Jim Altman

Dear family, avarice is a synonym of greed. It is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Some distinguish between avarice and greed, essentially implying that avarice is like greed-on-steroids. No matter which word we care to use, both regard an excessive or inordinate desire of gain or wealth; a selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions.


Avarice has a long if uncomplicated history in English. Chaucer in his 14th-century The Parson's Tale compared avarice with covetise, a now obsolete word that means "covetousness" ("Covetise is to covet such things as thou hast not; and avarice is to withhold and keep such things as thou hast, without rightful need"-743), and Shakespeare uses it in Macbeth ("With this there grows / In my most ill-composed affection such / A stanchless avarice that, were I king, / I should cut off the nobles for their lands, / Desire his jewels and this other's house: / And my more-having would be as a sauce / To make me hunger more"-IV.iii.76-82).


As he always seemed to do, the brilliant Shakespeare got it spot-on. "My more-having would be as a sauce to make me hunger more." Remember the life lesson of Adam and Eve, summarized as "Nothing is ever enough." Remember how they had everything, but it wasn't enough? That really is the problem with avarice - nothing ever is enough, but only makes one want more.


Apart from that issue, of course, are the Gospel teachings on what happens when avarice runs amok. Remember the rich man who had a bountiful harvest. "Oh!" says he, "I will tear down my smaller barns and build bigger barns!" Not a good idea. First, it sounds pretty wasteful to tear down perfectly good barns. When we hear about wealthy people buying homes and tearing them down to build bigger ones, don't we suppose those people have never read Jesus' parable? Second, Jesus makes it clear - crystal clear - what Almighty God thinks about that kind of stuff; "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?" (Luke 12:20). And then Jesus delivers the coup de grace: "Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God" (Luke 12:21). And as if that weren't bad enough, there is the little problem about that camel trying to get through the eye of the needle.


Ok, so we know all that; but, here is something few look in the mirror and contemplate. Yeah, we might not be longing for Aaron Spelling's Hollywood mansion, but we all have it rather good. In fact, many of us tend to live beyond "our means." Here's an example ...


When I was teaching in the high school, I would ask the juniors or seniors, "How much do you think you will make when you get out of college?" The answers ranged from a low of about 40k, to a high of around 80k. The thing is, it did not matter what number with which I started, when we subtracted a mere 1/3 for taxes, and then subtracted the things upon which they themselves said they would spend "their" money - housing (I mentioned to them the hidden extras like furniture, appliances, bedding, towels, laundry soap, homeowners' or renters' insurance), auto (I mentioned to them the hidden extras like auto insurance, gas, oil changes), student-loans, cell phones, cable/internet, pizza on Friday - when we got done, both high and low incomes were at least 10-20% "in the red!" The thing is, the more we make, the more we live in nicer housing, drive fancier newer cars, and get the newest latest iPhones. And then I would bring up "Christmas and birthday gifts" - where their money was spent on someone other than themselves! They thought about it and sure enough, deeper into the red they went. And then - here it comes, dear family - about this point I would say "Hey! What's missing here?! I don't see any almsgiving, no giving back to God for all He has given you. There is nothing here for Church and charity."


Dear family, I wasn't being mean. I only was pointing out the reality that pretty much all of us are infected with an avaricious "living large" mentality. We all live in the biggest barns that the banks will loan us the money to buy. We all tend to drive the best vehicles the lenders will loan us the money to buy. And we all tend to have decent cell phones, cable, and internet. And pretty much none of us are going hungry when the CDC tells us: "During 2011-2014, the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity was 38.3% among women and 34.3% among men."


Dear family, we all suffer from avarice. Whatever level our income might be, we long for more. And what's even worse about all this, is that we even will blow off the 3rd Commandment so - really, how many times have we heard this? - "I'm working or putting in some overtime on Sunday."


As to that last thing, working on Sundays, I also used to ask the high schoolers if they would sell their soul to the devil for a million bucks.

"Oh, NO, father," they would say.

I would up the ante to ten million dollars.

"Oh, NO, father," they would say.

Finally, I went all out -

"Would you sell your soul to the devil for a billion dollars?! You could have the house, the boat and the car, and still have 999 million to live off the interest!"

"Oh, NO, father," they all would say.

At that point, I would tell them they were dead wrong - they would sell their souls to work on Sunday for minimum wage at Shopko or the IGA, all because they "needed" money for clothes, cells, car insurance or gas.


This analysis does not apply just to high schoolers. It applies to all adults who - whether they realize it or not - suffer from a level of avarice that takes away not just from the amount of money they should be tithing, but also takes away from the most valuable time we are commanded to give back to God by keeping the Lord's Day holy.


Dear family, I'm not sure how to tell anyone to fix this problem. I cannot give specific advice for anyone because the circumstances differ for each one of us. What I can say is that each one of us, myself included, really needs to ask ourselves, are we giving back to God what is God's? Or are we, because of the deadly sin of avarice, keeping way too much for ourselves?


(your selection)

(or directly to the Rosary)

The traditional mysteries are prayed on the following days:

Joyful Mysteries: Monday and Thursday.

Sorrowful Mysteries: Tuesday and Friday.

Glorious Mysteries: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.