Saturday, 31 August 2013

Take your seat

GospelLuke 14:1,7-14 

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. 

He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

  Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

Interesting that this Gospel comes in the exam season; a time when the hierarchy of life first starts to raise its ugly head in earnest. Whether it’s places at Grammar schools, counting A's or points for university places. Young people begin to understand that we may have all been born equal but that that equality does not last long.

The world all too quickly becomes a place for haves and have-nots; designer fashion and phone, holidays, cars, driving lessons, friends in high places, faces that fit. And into this melee we try to find a seat with our name on it. And we hope that the seat is at least more than halfway up the table and that we find ourselves sitting with people who are like us.

Which is, of course the other thing - that we  seek out those who are ‘like us’; from football teams to music preferences; the language we speak to the colour of our skin; our abilities and our disabilities; it is so comfortable to be with people who remind us of us; who remind us of what we like about us.

Social media, especially, encourages us to find 'people like us'; suggesting 'groups' or 'pages' we should join; inner circles that we should want to be a part of; following people who live up to an image of how we want to be. 

It's a great way to make links across the virtual world if we are secure about who we are. However, in the search for approval, our social network avatar can provide a 'techo' opportunity to 'dress up' and pretend. Social scientists are becoming concerned that social media is developing an unhealthy need to be 'liked' in more ways that one. 

It's a contemporary platform but it's nothing new. In the weekday Gospel readings, Jesus has been rebuking the Pharisees for their measured hypocrisy; using the Law to exclude those it was intended to protect; protecting the self-serving behaviour it was meant to exclude. The word ‘hypocrites’ is a theatrical word for those who wear a mask. 

But then we all have a mask of some kind or other; and for some of us they are very elaborate indeed; combining all the elements of status and authority that we need to take the right place in the theatre of life. 

We forget that someone came along and modelled another way of looking at people; of deciding status and of judging others - by not doing it.

Jesus is sitting at the back in the cheap seats and shouting at us to come and join him. But would you be prepared to give up your seat?

Jesus loves us all, but he shows a fondness for honest people, or rather people who are honestly themselves; the poor, the unclean, the lame – the ones who have neither the energy or anyone to impress by wearing these masks of society. 

And, yes, the rich can be honest, after all, integrity and humility are virtues that need practice. But it may be harder; the world sets standards that are difficult to ignore.

 Jesus makes friends across the width, depth and breadth of society. He  sits with the greatest and the least; table fellowship is at the heart of his mission - providing food and friendship - placing them first. 

The celebration of the Eucharist tells us this is true, that this is fellowship - this is the love of God, wanting the least of us - who can never pay him back - to share in his great feast. 

Is it really too much for us to have the grace to do the same?


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Tough Love

Sunday GospelLuke 13:22-30 

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
  ‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
  ‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
  ‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

This is the Jesus we don’t like to hear from too often; the Jesus who seems to go back on everything that he has promised; forgiveness, worthiness, rooms in the Father’s mansion. Well,yes, but only if you can get through the narrow door. God wills that all will be saved; but there seems to be lots of exceptions all of a sudden and it’s a bit of a shock to the system.

A difficult Gospel to unwind until I thought about the time of year that we are in. Exam results! It’s during the month of August that parents and young people discover what the waiting game is all about. The dates that seemed so far off at the end of the school year; suddenly are looming large. The confidence that you’d done enough to pass; suddenly is fading into anxious memories of lessons missed and questions left unanswered. The decisions made in the surety of success are now overwhelmed with ‘what if’s’.

Parents; remembering the hope and ambitions that they had for their children, stay awake at night considering strategies and regretting every night they let them go out with their mates or watch ‘Big Brother’. The questions come one after the other; too lenient, too ambitious, not ambitious enough?

And I take no pleasure in this – having been one of those parents with one of those young people.

Eventually though, there comes a point when you cannot do any more for your child; and it may not be exams; it may be friendships; money issues; job applications; sports ambitions. Eventually you have to come down of the side of that strange emotion ‘tough love’. 

Knowing that you have done all you can – it is now ‘up to them’. And whatever happens next is in that knowledge; it is love – and, especially when the outcome may not be what they want - it is tough.

Otherwise, you are left being the parent of a adult ‘baby’, wanting the world and having no idea how to get it; wasting their lives and blaming it on everyone except themselves.

The promise of salvation is a wonderful gift; the thought of all those rules we never needed to follow; all those rooms – surely one with our name on; a God who has promised us so much even though we are not worthy. Having sat and listened to the Good News; it would be simple to live in expectation of Heaven.

But could it really be that easy? Should it be that easy? After all that God has offered us would it not seem reasonable that we should be taking a bit of responsibility.

Jesus has spent most of Luke’s Gospel teaching us how to be disciples; we have the theory; we have sat and listened; we have been there whilst he was speaking. Perhaps we have not realised that there will be a ‘test’. That the test is the day to day living of our life.

The theory is not the answer; it simply gives us the method; we have to put words into practice. To get up from our place at the Master’s feet and walk the walk. It’s like piling the shelves up with self-help guides to health, happiness and love and never trying any of it because the time is not right; like buying a membership to a gym and promising ourselves to go ‘tomorrow’. The things that belong to ‘tomorrow’ are the very things that will weigh us down; distract us and stop us from being able to enter by the narrow door.

If we wish to cross the threshold we need something more than ‘we know how to do it-we just haven’t ever got round to it’. 

Nothing worth having is that easy. At least the warning has been given. The teacher, having given his lesson, warns us that we also have to do the homework, the revision and the practical.

Warnings we are used to in all other aspects of learning and they are given with love; Jesus paints the blackest of pictures and gives the darkest of threats because of ‘tough love’ –it’s the last place he wants us to be and the very last thing he wants to hear is weeping and grinding of teeth – but at the end of the day – perhaps it is up to us.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Fire to the earth

GospelLuke 12:49-53 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

There is a phrase, or state of mind, that circles faith communities these days known as Cafe Christians. Not an opportunity for like minded folk to meet up over a coffee, although there are a few of those around. A Cafe Christian shops around from the various belief structures, limitations, rituals and traditions. They may be mostly 'this' or 'that' but reserve their right to choose whatever fits best with their conscience or comfort zone.

 In all truth, it is a recent branding of how many people follow their beliefs. A 'written in stone' obedience to the letter of any denomination is measured against the awareness that there are thousands of other churches to choose from. Surely a tacit permission not to toe the party line if your heart tells you otherwise. It would be hoped, that after all the 'this and that's' there would be a simple truth that continues through it all; a common thread of faith.

In  the  times of Luke's Christian readers; the likelihood of division, even within families, was a reality. Healthy argument was part of the Jewish study of scripture; but the Law was another matter. Jesus' teaching challenged the limitations that had been imposed on Scripture. The two Great Commandments, that the questioning Scribe recognised, had been overshadowed by if's and but's and understanding of the Messiah was tainted by a desire for power and retribution. 

The two Great Commandments remain in shadow in these times too. We love the God who thinks like us and the neighbour who does likewise. The Word of God that seemed so clear and direct now has a new set of if's and but's. 

As Richard Rhor often points out in his talks, the Catechism tells us that God loves everybody and then spends the next x pages giving us the exceptions. And there are so many exceptions the division seems heading for infinity. 

Is this the world Jesus was looking forward to? The world he accepted a baptism of blood for? The world set alight with a holy fire?

Perhaps, instead of viewing the division from the eye of judgement and discrimination,  we should use the eyes of love. It's easy to imagine the destructive power of fire  - yet imagine a fire that feeds and protects; a fire that lights the darkness with love. A love that continues to blaze in the darkest of times; bringing hope and reconciliation and allowing us to see each other clearly.  Love that does not accept that exclusion is right; that judgment is right; that cruelty, neglect or disdain is right. Light that will, one day, overcome. 

In the paradox that this reading suggests, those that stand for love and peace must be witnesses to that truth and the struggle that that entails. 

Sometimes that struggle becomes much more than a disagreement across a pew bench or a dining room table. All over the world, people are suffering; because they don't fit in; because they won't fit in; because they are deemed not neighbours but strangers. And for that they are persecuted, their crosses trailing in Jesus' footsteps. If we are not part of the persecuted, surely we should support our brothers and sisters who are?

 Where is the power of love and peace? 

The power; given by the Holy Spirit, is in our hands. The many gifts, wisdom, courage, fortitude, right judgement.. arm us for a challenging spiritual life. 

 Peace on earth is a peace for people of goodwill -people of God's will. If that is who we believe we are, how do we live out God's will?  How do we define our neighbour... and always - where is the love?


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Otherwise known as...

The Feast of the Assumption 

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;
And his mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy

Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

The Assumption is one of Mary’s great feasts and celebrates the love and continuing faith of the family that she was asked to care for.

Through prayer, the Early Church decided that, on her death, Mary, a woman they had known as mother, disciple, teacher and friend, had been taken straight to her place in Heaven – a place that had been promised to us all.

And perhaps better than the risk of DNA testing, cloning, archaelogical digs or sharing of bones and hair in reliquaries?  What you might expect from a loving son or a protective parent?

Assumption is not the same as resurrection, Mary did not return to life on earth. But her mortal death had become more of a ‘falling asleep’ that lifted the veil and allowed her to continue her journey to heaven. The Eastern Church has followed this understanding since early times and names it ‘The Dormition’ - the 'falling asleep' and, also interestingly, the Eastern Church does not refer to Mary as Virgin but as Panagia - 'The Most Holy One'.

In the prayer of praise, the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary; she is endowed with fifty wonderful titles from 'Ark of the Covenant'. 'Gate of Heaven' and 'Mystical Rose' to 'Virgin most Venerable'. The titles exceed those of her Son, Jesus, in his own Litany and are suggestive of goddesses from past times.

They suggest a being beyond imagining - Someone who can be virgin, mother, queen and holy icon; a perfect being, not only in life but from conception to beyond death. 

A state of grace that causes unease for many women who know they can be virgins or mothers, but not both. And sometimes not either.

Which isn't quite how Mary sees herself.

The example of Mary, Help of Christians is surely no help if we cannot follow in her footsteps.

The Divine Office of the Church reads just one gospel passage each evening, every evening - the Magnificat. 

The 'Song of Mary' that acknowledges the witness of Elizabeth and her child.She prays that others will recognise God's intimate touch in their lives.

What does Mary say?

My soul is a lens; focused on the promise of God's will
My spirit  a celebration of the saving goodness of God's will
My body, of living flesh and blood, holds the fulfilment of God's will -
This is what the world must recognise

That all I am is gift - a gift of God's will

God is all, in all.
And not just for me. 

For all who have opened their hearts; God's power has already been seen.
Whilst those who felt they controlled God; have been shown as fools.
And those who felt they were greater than God; have been denied.

All who know their need of God; are lifted up
All who know their need of God; will be filled with grace

And those who are full of themselves; will remain 'full of themselves'

This is no new message; this is not a song only for me to sing;

This promise is eternal and continues beyond me and forever.

Mary is a woman, a human being; body, mind and spirit...

the one who said 'yes'.

The Most Holy One, 

But, by God's grace, not the only one.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dressed for Action

GospelLuke 12:32-48 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

  ‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

  ‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

  Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

  The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

I have just returned from a few days away; one of which was spent in and

around the ruins of Tintern Abbey - a 12 century Cistercian Abbey resting venerably on a turn of the River Wye surrounded by its heritage of water mills, inns and converted houses and shops. On either side the hills are covered by the ancient broadleaved Forest of Dean; paths leading to the even more ancient Offa's Dyke that was built to separate the Kingdoms of Powys and Mercia in the 8th Century. One path leads to a rocky limestone
outcrop known as the Devil's Pulpit - a viewpoint that the Devil took full advantage of to try to lure the monks from their vocation and where an equally ancient Yew deserves a tale of its own as it wraps its roots and limbs tightly around a limestone plinth.

It's a place where the timescape folds like origami in and around itself; the sounds of the visitors soaking into the atmosphere like the ripples of pebbles in a deep pool.

In some places (thankfully not here) actors have dressed as monks and lay brothers; attempting to add authenticity and historic connection to the surroundings. Generally it doesn't work; without the spiritual awareness; the 'monks' sing Elizabethan madrigals from the centre of woven labyrinths and speak of boredom; cold and being dragged out of bed. 

The attitude of service does not sit well in contemporary minds; there is always someone else who 'does'. Taking it easy is an affirmation of personal status; settling into a comfort zone where, again, the world revolves around us.

The attitude of service suggests subservience; a willingness to be less than another; to know our place; to be open to criticism.

The attitude of service calls for ambition; to eye the green-ness of the other side of the fence; to check the wheels of our aspirational bicycle. 

The attitude of service in contemporary times would race out of the studded wooden doors of the abbey and up into the forest shimmering with green tinged raindrops. 

The monks knew otherwise. The monastic life was based on the Two Great Commandments; they knew the need for service in community and purpose in service. They followed the Benedictine Rule, whose motto is ' ora et labora' - work and pray. 

They knew that that part of the cure for soul sickness or 'accidie' was a pattern of prayer that continued, even if the words were like 'ashes', in the rising and singing of the Divine Office seven times day from 2.00am to 9.00pm. They knew that their gift to the community was hospitality - the welcoming of the stranger;  the care of the sick and the orphan and providing of work and shelter for those in need.

Their vocation, their life, given in service to both God and man may have involved cold, endless routine and early mornings. More importantly, it involved the weaving of a pattern that bound discipleship, relationship and joy.  

In the ideal of monastic life lay a heart that knew the value of Love; a mind alert to the needs of the world; a life lit by desire for God and God's desire for  all beloved children. 

This is the life we are meant to live; contemplatives in the everyday. Finding community in our neighbours; our virtual families; our awareness of others and even in solitude. 

This is the life we are meant to live; despite boredom,failure and fatigue; for it is not what we do for ourselves but what we do for others that will be measured.

This is the life we are meant to live because this is the life our King lives and our 'place' is with him. 

In the liquid silent presence of Tintern, the calling is always to look up. 

The stone rises,  defying its nature, to an open sky; framing and silhouetting God's creation that surrounds it,  yet holding and encircling those that stand within. 

A thin place - a place where, for a moment, the Kingdom is a heart's beat away.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Crack of Light

GospelLuke 9:28-36 

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

I didn't intend to post today but this parallel thought came along - a little late but, ar least, not never.

The recent moon has marked the season known as Lammas; a season that marks a number of traditions that go back farther than written history could hope to follow. Part of the tradition balances Brigid's  February blessing of planting and promise with August's celebration and making ready. They make sense in many ways for a people in touch with the land. Both involve a clearing of the living spaces and, for the first time in a while, I have thrown myself into it;

Garden - rusted garden seat; piece of mirror rescued from a skip; slices of purple roof slate collected after the storms; stone rabbit with ears glued on; ancient owl pockmarked with rain; various stones - some with holes, shells and bones; lengths of driftwood, rope, nets and lobster pot makings; bottom half of a cast iron pub table; lengths of rusty anchor chain; various hangings made from the above.

Shed - more of the above; peat from the Isles; water from a loch; sand from Arizona; driftwood from the Holy Isles; stones; feathers; candles, marbles and glass; sacred talismans, prayer beads, icons, crosses and other objets - made and given; torn sailing canvas; broken beads; rosaries; homeless books.

Car - churchyard pinecones; gull, crow and heron feather, an icon of Madonna and Child, piece of seaglass; prehistoric bead; woven grasses from a prayer walk; an iron ring; a pure white stone.

These weren't the things I threw away - these were the treasures I have kept and spent hours over the past few days reacquainting myself with. And not because, one day, I will make them into something else - although that it a possibility - because they are beautiful; as old, cracked; damaged and strange as they are. 

My creative skills will never be a patch on the Creator; even the smallest and insignificant stone or shell reminds me that God made all and all is good.

Tonight,  I made a fire with the leavings; the wormy and coral ingrained wood; the dustier of the cones and nuts, the dry feathers; bits and pieces of metal, leather and canvas and I watched as the fire affected each substance in a different way. The fire was surely the same, yet the essences within the pieces created different reactions. Sparks, changes in colours of light from bright oranges to turquoises and magenta; squeaky hisses of air and tiny explosions accompanied by sweet and acrid scents as each was offered up. A fascinating meditation.

My Facebook check in had Rumi's well known quote about needing a wound, a crack, so as to let the Light in. I wondered if Rumi was only half right.

Jesus tells us we are Light; I am Light; you are Light. Meant to stand on a hilltop; to guide Masters and Bridegrooms through the darkness.

The trouble is; within us is a fear of the darkness; the darkness that covers us in so many ways in the simple living of our lives. So we start off protecting the light by hiding under a table and end up building barriers; as time goes on, every hurt, insult, abuse or misuse of ourselves or others; every loss or betrayal thickens the skin to a dense, opaque spiritual barricade. 

A guarding armour against the threats from those who would deny us the freedom to be who we  are.

I wonder if the wound, sometimes, isn't just the hurt. Perhaps it is the attempt by the couragous flickering spirit that is hidden by the ego of fear and self-protection to break through the darkness. Like the hatching of a new life struggling to take wing. 

Perhaps the wound also allows the Light, our Light, to come through.  Perhaps we should take the time to reacquaint ourselves with our spiritual flame. Making space to experience the sacred spark that changes us, even as Jesus is changed.

Allowing us to remember who we are in God's eyes - surrounded by those who love us; Beloveds; sons and daughters; chosen of the Father. 


Sunday, 4 August 2013

No pockets in a shroud

Sunday Gospel

Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

The question may seem simple enough and sincere enough to warrant the Rabbi's attention. It seems to affirm the belief that Jesus is, indeed, appreciated as a Rabbi of authority when he is asked to deliver justice for the man in the crowd. However, the request speaks of something deeper and much more insidious than a fair sharing of property.

In recent years we have come to expect that people become independent of their family; that they get on their bike and make a life for themselves in another place; in another country. Something to have pride in.

Not so in Jesus' time when survival often depended on loyalty and sharing of resources. In the tribal, family focussed tradition of the Jewish community land and property were family treasures. Inheritance meant a 'passing on; but also a sharing of responsibiity and opportunity - as more adults became involved in working the land the value increased, not for one but for all. Riches were literally 'ploughed back' into the land for the promise of another season, another generation.

The one 'going it alone' was the exception and spoke of a betrayal or disregard for everything that had gone before.

The man in the crowd wants his desires to be approved, and if he believes who Jesus is, he wants approval from God. In this community, this desire speaks of selfishness and greed; an inability perhaps to accept other family members as co-heirs or elders; a resentment of working for the common good.

In our time we have been encouraged to work on our own desires; to nurture our self-esteem; to follow our dreams. Culture and media assure us that we can 'just do it' because we are 'worth it' and the world really does 'revolve around us'; We are nudged to aspire to ivory towers of individualism crafted with the 'must haves' of designer labels; executive homes and concept cars.
Surely, it's not all bad? A good life must be something to aspire to but there is 'good' and there is 'good'.

The problem is greed. Greed doesn't care about good; it cares about 'me'. It doesn't care where things come from; what the human cost is; what is exploited or denied. Greed does, not only, not love its neighbour - it builds a wall against them if it even recognises that they exist.

No, Jesus does not criticise wealth; he just asks the question- 

How easily does the desire for God get pushed aside by the desire for wealth?
How can you serve when you live in expectation of being served?
How can you appreciate what it is to have nothing when there is nothing you cannot have?
And when the time comes; how do you sell a self-centred life to God ?