Bigger Barns

In the past 5 years, Microsoft has started to make its own computers. It has started to make its own computer hardware as well as the software. OK, here is computer lesson 101: the hardware is the like the body of the computer, while the software is like the spirit of the computer. So, like every person has a body and soul, the computer has hardware and software.

So, what’s the big deal about Microsoft making computers with its own hardware and software? Well, it has always been focused on just making the spirit of the computer: Windows. Other companies, like Dell, HP, and the rest, make the hardware that has Microsoft’s software inside. It’s like, those other companies make their own versions of the “body” of the computer, and each one is infused with the same “spirit” that Microsoft makes.

So why did Microsoft start to make its own computers? Because the hardware companies couldn’t quite get the hardware right that would exhibit everything that Microsoft’s software could do. So, Microsoft decided that it would *show* the other companies what the hardware should look like to make the most of the software. They decided to show Dell and HP and all the rest what the body of the computer should be so that the spirit could fully act through it. Microsoft started to make these new computers not to compete against the other companies, but so that the other companies would imitate the new forms of hardware when they made their own.

Over the last 5 years, Microsoft has made new types of computers that really have made whole new categories in computers, like Apple made the iPhone and the tablet. Who knew those things would be needed? But they really bring out all that Windows – the spirit of the computer – can do. And the hardware companies have followed and started copying, to Microsoft’s happiness!

But now there is a big decision for Microsoft. Now that the other companies get the idea and are making these new computer forms and everyone can see the value, are they going to continue to refine these computers? In that case, their hardware department would have to become bigger, and they would have to keep making more and more updates to these new designs, and it would take all the same types of resources and time and effort that the hardware companies use. Or, are they going to consider “mission accomplished” with those computers? In that case, they could leave off making those computers, and keep all their resources focused on what they are really about, the spirit of the computer and getting it into computers. They could repeat the process of creating new hardware designs for a bit whenever they need to shepherd the hardware companies and show them what would make the spirit that they provide really become embodied. Their hardware efforts would stay in check and suck the energy away from their bread-and-butter, their treasure.

In the first option, they’ve become both a hardware and software company and have lost their focus. In the second option, they are a software company that loves to have its “spirit” in computers, and only makes select hardware when it’s necessary to guide the hardware companies. Those are two totally different paths.

Their whole future literally hangs on this decision.

Jesus tells a parable in the Gospel about a man who has a great harvest one year, and he comes to a decision point. He could invest in building bigger barns for his crops and become a barn construction and crop surplus manager on top of a farmer. Or, he could consider it “mission accomplished”, sell or share his excess crops, maybe show others how he got his great yield, and stay focused on his treasure: farming. Well, he builds the keeps the crops and builds the bigger barns. And then God says to him, “You fool, tonight, your crops and barns demand all your attention, and they’re not even going to be around all that long.” The farmer’s not thinking about farming anymore.

He’s lost his treasure.

That’s what happens when you build bigger barns.

Boston College began in 1864 in a small building in the heart of an immigrant neighborhood as a school for the sons of poor Irish immigrants. The first class had 22 boys, only one of which was academically oriented, and most of which attended free. Now, 150 years later, Boston College is a high school and a separate university at two separate, beautiful locations in Boston, especially as the city has become “gentrified” and much more expensive. They are two of the most expensive schools – high school and university – in the area, if not the country. In the meantime, there are now other poorer immigrants, many from Latin America, in other areas of the state. And there are no Jesuits living with them and starting education projects. Why?

They could have stopped when secular schools – especially the public schools – rose up and the Irish had another place to go. They could have gone into the secular schools and brought that spirit of service and mission to the poor. And then they’d be free to start again with new innovative institutions for others who are poor.

But instead they are busy with the demands related to running large, elite institutions that need lots of wealth, and end up serving the wealthy.

See, that’s what happens when you build the bigger barns, when you don’t say “mission accomplished” when you’ve been the model for the secular world to follow.

You lose your treasure.

The church has a lot of large institutions: schools, hospitals, parishes, healthcare facilities. When starting out, they were small and for the poor, and the church was the innovator. But then the times came when the rest of society followed suit, and instead of saying “mission accomplished” and closing shop and freeing up Christians to bring the Spirit of service to the poor into those new institutions, instead of setting inspired Christians free to find new opportunities to show new institutional forms of what the Spirit of God looks like when embodied …

The church built bigger barns.

Our mission as Catholics, as Christians, regarding institutions is to be example-setters and leaveners, free to serve and lift up the poor. It’s to make visible what the Spirit is when embodied socially so other institutions can follow and we can bring our leaven into them. It’s not to be full-time institution-runners. If you feel like there are others in secular society doing what you’re doing, and that your time is tipping toward administration and not ministry, then it might be time to say, “Mission accomplished.”

Those others could use you and your spirit. Maybe it’s time to start something new to address another need.

But don’t build bigger barns.

Don’t lose your treasure.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” (Lk 4:18)


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