Reflection on the Gospel-18th Sunday in Ordinary Time C (Luke 12:13-21)

Posted on Jul 31, 2019 in News

Our tradition tells us that “the earth and all that is in it belongs to God” (Psalm 24). That does not stop people from arguing over possessions and even killing for them. It never has. The Iraq war should have been a lesson to the world. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was much coveted oil and that seems to have been the covert justification for an unconscionable invasion that cost countless lives. There seems to be something deep within the human psyche that continually seeks for more. Those who seek to be “rich toward God” or “rich in God” find life. Those who seek to be rich in material possessions will simply be left, at life’s end, with a question: “To whom will this hoard belong?” The question is rhetorical and expects the answer of Psalm 24: “the earth and all that is in it belongs to God”.

Jesus is addressed as
“teacher”, and is asked to force a decision in an inheritance debate. He demonstrates
that he is “teacher” rather than “divider”. He tells a hard hitting story. He
knows that story-telling is more effective in bringing people to life-giving
decisions than is any attempt to bring down a definitive ruling, especially for
those who surely know the law. His story is about a landowner who is blessed by
an abundant harvest. The estate manager as well as the peasant workers and
their families might reasonably expect a share in the profits, even a remission
of the debts they inevitably carry. In this instance, the blessing of abundance
turns the land-owner inwards rather than out towards others and so “toward
God”. First person singular pronouns predominate: “What am I to do? I have no
place….I will do this….I will …. I will …. I will ….” The
futility or senselessness of stockpiling for personal gain is highlighted by
the shift to second person singular, “You
fool…”, and by the divine judgment on the landowner’s self-focus and
greed. Greed appears in today’s reading from the letter to the community at
Colossae. For the author of that letter, greed is simply idolatry, worship of a
false god (Col 3:5).

In these times of planetary
vulnerability, there is some urgency about the call to place our trust in the
goodness of a generous God, to reduce our ecological footprint and to
acknowledge that the good things of the earth belong to God and to all of God’s
people, not just to the privileged few. In refusing to “store up treasure” for
our own selfish ends, we become forever “rich toward God”.  This applies to nation-states as well as to
individuals. We have some responsibility for what is done in our name, for the
size and deployment of our foreign aid budget for instance. The command to “be
on your guard, be ever vigilant” in this respect is a demand for gospel
justice.