St John Vianney was well known as the humble, austere, potato-eating priest from Ars, who spent hours hearing confessions, by day, and dueling with the devil, by night. Little was it known how much he valued money.
Like all pastors, the Curé of Ars could always find a use for donations to fix the leaky church roof, stain the pews, hire an organist, and help out the needy of the parish. So he naturally showed great enthusiasm and gratitude when parishioners and pilgrims contributed to his slush fund.
As the hoards of pilgrims kept flocking to his little country parish, generous donations kept pouring in, and Père John continued to graciously accept them, even after all the needs of the parish were met. And he used it to build bigger and better barns.
Now, we all know, as St Paul teaches, that the love of money is the root of all evil. But as St Augustine observes, when you love something rightly for the sake of something else your devotion to your first love matures and grows. St John Vianney’s first love was God and the salvation of souls.
St John became more and more excited as the donations kept pouring in. Once they reached a certain amount, he would immediately sponsor a parish mission to support other needy parishes throughout the region. And though he never kept money longer than necessary to send aid to another parish, his endowments allowed him to continue contributing to the mission of the Church long after his death.
St John Vianney’s bigger barns proved fruitful, because he understood the true value of money; he put it to good use in this life, and with God’s blessing, also in the next.
And here’s what the saintly priest understood well and what made him a saint, the rule of the Gospel: Love God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself.
In contrast, today’s Gospel presents us with a different picture. I’m not talking about the fool who decided to invest his earthly treasure in ways to insure he could hold on to it and hoard it to himself. I’m talking about the fool who begs the Lord, who sees what’s in the heart of every man, to settle his civil dispute.
The fellow who places love for money over his relationship with his own brother shows where his heart truly lies. So the Lord uses the parable of the barns to illustrate where greed eventually gets you: nowhere, cut off from love of God and man.
Saints, like John Vianney, readily grasp the wisdom of the Gospel, because they live it. They store up treasure in heaven and bring more souls to heaven through their acts of charity and zealous love for God. These treasures do not perish and they can’t be bound up in man-made barns.