Eighteenth Sunday, Year C, 4 August, 2019: Qoheleth 1:2; 2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21
I believe this Gospel is a very timely. We live in a religious culture that can distort the Gospel into a way of achieving prosperity. Some believe that if we behave and follow the prescribed norms, God will reward us with material success.
Luke’s Gospel could not disagree more. Luke came from an economically deprived community, so badly off that he reframed the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” as “Blessed are the poor,” period!
Luke isn’t canonizing financial insecurity, but that deprivation allows him to recognize how dependent we are on God. He recognizes how God chooses vulnerability and powerlessness to work salvation in our midst.
It’s not that the anxiety to make ends meet is morally superior to financial security; rather, Luke is acutely aware that financial resources bring no security. At what point will any amount of money or property be enough? Don’t we see billionaires grasping for more, cutting corners—to the detriment of those in need—never satisfied with what they have?
Today’s parable reduces that insecurity to basics: no matter how much I have, I can’t eliminate death. Isn’t mortality the foundation of all my insecurities?
To put all this in perspective, it is also in Luke’s Gospel that we meet Martha and Mary, who use their home to provide hospitality for Jesus. Likewise, there are the well-to-do women who, from their wealth, provide for Jesus and his disciples. There’s the parable of the Samaritan who uses his money to provide for the man left for dead by robbers on the road to Jericho.
The problem isn’t wealth but what I do with it: do I discover who I am before God by responding to people’s needs with my gifts? Or do I define myself in society by the resources I command? Do I congratulate myself for what I’ve accumulated? Or do I thank God for the visit of good fortune?
Had the fool in today’s parable thought of thanking God for the bountiful harvest, would he have planned to tear down his barns to build bigger ones? Or might he have given a thought—his last thought, as it turned out—to his neighbors in need?