18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Hoarding Treasure For Oneself:
This Is Sheer Madness!”
What does the term ‘rich’ remind us of? – A happy person, with a beautiful house, a new car, many servants, who can get whatever he or she wants and go wherever it pleases them and to be envied and respected by all?
The first reading prepares this theme by giving us the reflections of the wise Qoheleth on the accumulation of riches that we must learn to leave to others.
The second reading speaks of the ‘new clothes’ that the Christian is wearing. The ‘new behaviour’ that characterizes him or her as a disciple of Christ includes also a radically different relationship with riches.
The Gospel of today is instead showing us the rich quite differently. Jesus is telling us that whoever hoards goods for themselves is a ‘fool’, a poor person who has got everything wrong in life.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23.
About two hundred and twenty years before Christ there was a wise man in Jerusalem that the people named Qoheleth, which means ‘man of the Assembly’. He was a person teaching wisdom to many disciples. Israel is undergoing radical changes and the economy is in full boom. Many Jews of the day fascinated by the prospect of wealth, welcome the new fashion, ways and customs. Their only interest becomes money and they even give up their faith and the religious practices of their people. The wise Qoheleth is not contaminated by this collective frenzy driving all towards accumulated riches. His reflections remain focused on people, on the world and on life. He asks himself: why is one born and then dies? Why is there suffering? Why are there so many people who are so eager to be after pleasure and enjoyment? Why do the foolish and wise people alike end up that way? Is it worth being deeply committed if life passes by like a breath of air or like the stream that vanishes?
Qoheleth considers all that is going on earth and finally concludes: “Everything is futile”. It is a sad and bitter establishment of a fact. In his short book he repeats this 25 times. The human person he says is seeking happiness, but this search is like running after the wind. He gives an example: “One who has laboured wisely, skillfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all.” Is this not futile and unjust? What is to be done? Stop working and avoid getting involved in anything? Eat, drink, make merry and avoid the thought of these things?
Qoheleth councils his disciples on finding a healthy enjoyment of what life has to offer. He does not provide an answer to these fundamental questions. The replies to these questions will not be found in his book but in the Gospel. Jesus will invite all people to open up their minds and eyes and not to direct their interest only to personal gain and benefit. To pass one’s life only to accumulate, he will say, is folly. The world in which we live shares many of the same values that the people of Qoheleth’s time seem to have held. Our culture treasures wealth, security, comfort, power, control and autonomy. We want to be in charge of our own destiny. We don’t like to think about death or deal with death because it does not fit in with our presumptions and our plans.
Is there a world we can build that will not pass away? Is there a task we can perform that will lead to something lasting? The mission of the Church testifies that there is. The person, who labours for their brother or sister, is not labouring in vain, for vanity or for the absurd. Both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel offers us the very same lesson this Sunday. Perhaps it is because we need it so desperately. The treasure we all need to hoard up is ‘Love for God and gratuitous love for our neighbour’!
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17.
The Psalm too gives us the reflections of one’s awareness of the shortness of life. The author takes seriously God’s words to Adam in Genesis about returning to dust (Gn. 3:18). Despite all, he still praises God and lives his life in communion with him, unlike the ‘Rich Fool’ in the Gospel.
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11.
In our final passage from Colossians, we learn about Christian behaviour. Our way of life as Christians depends on our understanding of the person of Christ and on a dignity based on baptismal experience. Full salvation belongs to the future; for the present, the vices that threaten the rest of humanity, threaten the Christian too. Among these is ‘greed’, the vice that destroyed the man (Rich Fool) in the Gospel. Our destiny is to be fully identified with Christ. Through baptism we have become similar to our Creator, but we are still covered by so many impurities that it is almost impossible to see in us the countenance of the Father. Recognition takes time; first of all the old life must be wiped away together with all its pagan habits, and only after that, slowly appears in us a ‘new person’. This passage is an invitation not to get discouraged, even if we see that we are still very far away from resembling our Father who is in heaven. God’s grace and love for our neighbour can fast-track us there.
Today’s Gospel reading begins with two brothers asking Jesus to settle their property claims. Jesus refuses to do so. He then says to them, and to each one of us, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Jesus teaches us how to look at our worldly possessions from the point of view of faith. The parable of the Rich Fool we read today is found only in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus refuses to be dragged into settling a dispute over inheritance and warns the hearers, through the wisdom of a parable, that they ought to be attentive where they give their importance, to God, or to their numerous worldly possessions?
At the heart of Jesus’ teaching so far has been the ‘Kingdom of God’. Jesus uses the occasion of a dispute to make his disciples and followers understand that the Kingdom of God is not just about solving some daily problems. It goes much deeper than that and demands a radical change of the attitudes that cause such dispute: greed and jealousy, i.e. giving too much importance to material possessions.
With Jesus a new time has begun when our usual concerns and worries of life are no longer important. He has already made it clear that family ties must not stop a disciple from following him. The other important area that needs change is our attitude to money and possessions. What Jesus teaches about the place of money and possessions in our lives seems the opposite of what most of us think will make us happy.
Jesus warns that looking for happiness by having more things is a false dream for two reasons. The more we have, the more we thirst and hunger for. The more we have does not make us satisfied and feeling at peace. There is also the simple truth that we are just passing through this world and in the end we will take nothing with us (Sir. 11:19). Our love for God and our neighbour is our only lasting treasure and anything else that does not bring us nearer to God and to each other is not worth living for.
The parable of the ‘Rich Fool’ helps us to become more aware of how short-sighted and foolish our attitude to possessions can be. In the beginning we are inclined to feel admiration and sympathy for the man in the story. By worldly standards, he has been smart, enterprising, hard-working and was blessed by God with good harvests. We can all easily identify with this happy man. All of a sudden, the story turns round to condemn the rich man and us with him. What is wrong?
In his riches he has completely forgotten what is most important in life: God and other people. He never thinks or speaks about them. He only thinks of himself. One would have expected that the rich man would have shown some gratitude to God who has enabled the land to produce this plentiful harvest and to people who help sow and to reap. But God and other people have not been included in his future projects.
The ‘Rich Fool’ had hoped to provide for ‘only himself’ a better life for tomorrow, now God reminds him that only God is the ‘Master of Tomorrow’. The future that God is preparing is a new-age where people do not think first of all of their own comfort, but feel responsible for each other’s happiness, like brothers and sisters of the same family. To make such sharing possible some attitudes have to be uprooted from our hearts: the greed, envy and jealousy that keep us apart from each other.
We do need money to survive in this culture, and we need it to take care of those who depend on us. If we splurge once in a while on some unnecessary thing, is that so bad? Jesus is not intent on laying a guilt trip on us on how we spend our money. He just wants to be clear that the getting of money is a temporal matter that has a ‘mortality’ of its own.
If the getting of money is what our lives are about, what will we do when the life of money is behind us? The time is coming for each of us when a million dollars will simply be so much worthless paper. For Christians, and indeed for all peoples, an emphasis on tinsel is out. Our hearts need much more to satisfy them. This satisfaction can be found only in and through Christ. This week let us put our ‘treasure’ in lasting things. Give time to someone who asks for it. Give money to someone who can’t pay you back. Give the ‘treasure of love’ to all those you come in contact with.
In the Acts of Apostles, Luke paints a picture of such an ideal community where all share their possessions in solidarity with the poor and no one is in need (Acts. 2:42-47; 4:32-37).
The Saving Message For Us In Today’s Gospel.
Jesus’ strong warning in today’s Gospel reading is about greed. He says, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions.” Jesus is explaining that the essential, fundamental evil and error of covetousness, that is being eagerly desirous of wealth and possessions, is that covetousness makes one think that life is comprised and composed of the things that you possess. We feel that if we have material wealth, we are better off or even superior to those who do not have them. We can even think that we do not need God or to do His will.
Is it wrong or a bad thing to be rich? Absolutely not! Abraham, Jacob, Solomon and Job were very rich. The rich man in the parable is not criticized or condemned because he was wealthy. Wealth itself does not damn. Conversely, poverty does not save. Wealth is not a vice. Poverty is not a virtue. It may seem difficult to believe, but many people with no money can go to hell over the riches they so strongly desire. Paul writes to Timothy, “People who want to be rich easily fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.” (1 Tim. 6:9).
Can we plan and save for our retirement? Saving money and planning ahead are good things. The Bible in many places stresses the using of one’s money and gifts wisely. Other parables even advise us to increase our wealth in order to be good caretakers of what God has entrusted to us, to help the poor and those less fortunate (often referred to widows and orphans). This is how we show we are “rich toward God.” This is the antidote to covetousness. It is the person who has their priorities in order who sees to the wealth and prosperity of the soul. Love God and your neighbour above all things!
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … The world in which we live shares many of the same values that the people of Qoheleth’s time seem to have held. Our present day culture seems to treasure the material values of this world. Many in our society are fascinated and lured by the prospect of wealth and all that it brings. Do we allow ourselves to become contaminated by these false treasures? Do we understand the difference between pleasure and enjoyment and true happiness?
Mon. … Do we, like Qoheleth, sometimes wonder what the purpose of our lives and our toils are? Qoheleth has concluded with foresight that the fruits of our toil will become the property of a person who has expended not the slightest effort in acquiring it. Therefore there is no real gain materially or permanent value in this life. Qoheleth was addressing a public who were convinced that wealth and comfort were the only worthwhile things that human beings could ever hope for. Qoheleth tells them that it is not much to look forward to because it is all temporary and it’s all vanity. Are we disturbed by Qoheleth’s thinking? Do we too question the real purpose of life?
Tues. … After counselling with his disciples Qoheleth still could not find answers to these fundamental questions. The replies to these questions on life will not be found in his book but in the Gospel. Jesus will invite all people to open their minds and eyes and not direct their interests only to personal gain and benefit. The simple truth is that we are all passing through this world on our journey of salvation and in the end will take no material possessions with us. Our love for God and our neighbour is our only ‘lasting treasure’ that has lasting value.
Wed. … In the second reading, Paul tells his Colossian converts and us, to ‘seek the things that are above’. When we become like Christ we begin to resemble our Father in heaven and the virtues and values we are expected to have when we complete our journey of salvation.
Thurs. … The ‘Rich Fool’ in the parable for whom we were inclined to feel admiration and sympathy for had hoped to provide a better life for tomorrow. In his accumulation of riches he has forgotten what is most important in life: the love of God and his neighbor. He allowed his objective of security to become selfish greed and his idol.
Frid. … In today’s readings God reminds us all that only He is the ‘Master of Tomorrow’. Our lives are not made secure by what we own. Having more often leads to enjoying less. The most valuable things in life are beyond the buying power of money.
Sat. … The time is coming for each one of us when the material wealth that we have accumulated will be ‘Fools Treasure’ i.e. treasure that we cannot take with us on the next stage on our journey of salvation. Is there a treasure that we can build that will be lasting and not pass away? The mission of the Church testifies that there is. The person who does the will of God irrespective and who labours for his neighbor gratuitously is not labouring in vain.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray for the wisdom not to allow ourselves to be contaminated by the false treasures of this world. May we always seek things that are from above, may we always follow in the ‘Way’ of our Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings. May we always recognize that the most valuable things in life are beyond the buying power of money. By Your grace may we always put the gifts You have given us in lasting things and gratuitously labour for our brothers and sisters in need.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.