TAKE CARE TO GUARD AGAINST ALL GREED…
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saying Against Greed
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”14He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”15Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Parable of the Rich Fool
16Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.17He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’18And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’20But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’21Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Other readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2; Ecclesiastes 2:21-23; Psalm 90:3-6; Psalm 90:12-17; Colossians 3:1-5; Colossians 3:9-11
I must admit that these past Sundays I have focused my attention almost exclusively on the texts from Luke’s Gospel and the Old Testament, and have completely ignored the fragments from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the last of which we read today. Thank God, today’s content will allow me to recall and put together what we read on previous Sundays. The first fragment (1:15-20) contained a hymn describing Jesus Christ as the visible image, the “icon,” of the invisible God, who reconciled all things, “making peace by the blood of his cross.” In the following text (1:24-28) Paul spoke about his own role as a minister whose task was to reveal to the Gentiles the hidden mystery of salvation offered to them, even though they did not belong to Israel. In the third fragment (2:12-14) he emphasized how, through baptism and faith, we have been raised with Christ and all our transgressions have been forgiven, “nailed to the cross“ and “obliterated,” together with any legal claim against us. Today (3:1-5, 9-11) he focuses his attention on the new condition of Christians, who “will appear in glory” with Christ when he appears. Until then, as we have been “raised with Christ,” we are encouraged to live “renewed in the image of the creator,” putting to death all earthly actions and desires, including greed “that is idolatry.” This idea, surely something more important than the mere word, is the link that connects Colossians with today’s readings from Ecclesiastes and Luke.
It is curious that when we speak about Christian ethics or morals, a good number of people identify those terms with norms or behavior concerning sex, marriage and divorce. But the truth is, Jesus very rarely speaks about those issues. Besides the two classical passages about marriage and divorce (Mathew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-9), Jesus says very little about that dimension of life. Even when he speaks about scandal, a subject usually associated with sexual behavior, his words could be applied to a good number of different issues.
On the contrary, if you go to a New Testament concordance, you will be surprised to see how often Jesus refers in his teaching to money, possessions, riches, and greed. In particular, Luke seems to be fond of emphasizing poverty as one (perhaps the most important) of the basic conditions to become Jesus’ disciple or even to enter the Kingdom of God. Curiously, the first Beatitude is “Blessed are you who are poor…” (Luke 6:20), contrasting with Matthew’s parallel text (5:3), “the poor in spirit.” From that starting point, Jesus insists on the importance of putting our trust in the one who will never fail: God. The Father and his mercy will always be with the poor, the little, the unimportant of this world, those who become like children and to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. If we put together the texts in which Jesus lays down the conditions necessary to reach perfection, inherit eternal life, enter the Kingdom of God or even follow him, we could write a sentence similar to this: “Go, sell what you have, your riches, give to the poor … come and follow me.” And those conditions could be applied not only to the Twelve or the Seventy-two, but to anyone wishing to accept the Good News of the Kingdom. Was Jesus a radical, a social rebel? Not at all, he simply wanted to set man in the right place as a human being, capable of making responsible decisions, but knowing that the ultimate sense of life is not something like our perishable treasures. Moth, rust or decay can destroy them, thieves can steal them, but God’s loving care for his faithful is the only reality that will never fail. I can simply offer a few quotations concerning poverty, riches and greed: Matthew 6:19-34; 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30. In your Bible, these passages will suggest other parallel texts.
So, what can we find in our readings concerning our life in society, so obsessed with money and economic promotion? First, Jesus did not come to solve inheritance disputes as if he were a lawyer. Nor can we Christians offer technical solutions to that kind of problem. Second, the parable of the man with a bountiful harvest is a perfect image of our self-sufficient way of approaching life. No doubt, we have to plan and organize our lives in a materialistic world, but we cannot accept its standards and rules. We should, then, ask ourselves if God is present in the realm of our economy, business, profession, or if those areas of our life are an “independent republic” in which Jesus’ invitation to follow him empty-handed does not fit. In fact, (and here we must go back to Colossians), money can become an idol to which we sometimes feel tempted to offer our life in sacrifice as if it were a god. Are you aware of and do you take into account those who live in poverty, not because of a special desire to imitate Jesus, who “has nowhere to rest his head” (Luke 9:58), but simply because they are living in a real dearth of resources? Have we understood the feelings of emptiness and disenchantment of the writer of Ecclesiastes after a life of “labor under the sun”?
A double intention for our Oratio. Let us pray for all those living in dire economic conditions, who have been obliged to leave their countries because of poverty or war, whose basic needs are ignored, and do not count within society: that their physical needs may be met and their human dignity respected. Of course, let us also pray for ourselves, we who live in affluent societies: that the Lord may open our eyes to the needs and distress of all those above mentioned and give us a spirit of generosity and solidarity to share with them the riches we have.
As on some other occasions (and although it is not a very “contemplative” idea), a suggestion in order to put into practice Jesus’ invitation to follow him in a spirit of poverty. No doubt, time is the dearest gift we have received from God. Try to imitate his generosity by devoting some of this precious gift and doing some kind of work for those in need … not only providing economic help, but relief in the many aspects of life where company, understanding, comfort (and perhaps money too!) can be vital in their personal circumstances.
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón,Roman Catholic priest,Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain