Lectio Divina: 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
The concern about riches
keeps us away from God and
prevents us from serving our neighbor
Luke 12, 13-21
1. Let us recollect ourselves in prayer – Statio
We are here before You, O Holy Spirit; we feel the weight of our weakness, but we have all gathered here in Your name; come to us, help us, come to our hearts; teach us what we should do, show us the path that we should follow, fulfill what You ask of us. You alone be the one to suggest and to guide our decisions, because You alone, with God the Father and with the Son, have a holy and glorious name; do not allow justice to be hurt by us, You who love order and peace; may ignorance not cause us to deviate; may human sympathy not render us partial, nor charges or people influence us; keep us close to You so that we may not drift away from truth in anything; help us, we who are meeting in Your name, to know how to contemplate goodness and tenderness together, so as to do everything in harmony with You, in the hope that by the faithful fulfillment of our duty we may be given the eternal reward in the future. Amen.
2. Prayerful reading of the Word – Lectio
Of the Gospel according to Luke:
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then 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.” Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And 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 goods 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!”’ But 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?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
3. To ponder the Word – Meditatio
3.1. Key to the reading:
The text of the liturgy for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time forms part of a long discourse from Jesus on trust in God, which drives away every fear (Lk 12:6-7), and on abandonment to God’s providence (Lk 12:22-23). The passage for today, in fact, is precisely between these two texts. Here are some of the teachings given by Jesus, before He was interrupted by “one of the crowd” (Lk 12:13), about trust and abandonment:
Lk 12:4-7: “To you My friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, he is the one to fear. Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God's sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Lk 12:11-12: “When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say.”
It is precisely at this point that the man interrupts Jesus’ discourse, showing his concern about the question of inheritance (Lk 12:13). Jesus preaches and says not to have “fear of those who kill the body and then can do nothing else” (Lk 12:4) and this man does not perceive the meaning of Jesus’ words addressed to those whom he recognizes as “My friends” (Lk 12:4). From the Gospel of John we know that a friend of Jesus is one who knows Jesus, in other words, one who knows everything that He has heard from the Father (Jn 15:15). The friend of Jesus should know that his Master is deeply rooted in God (Jn 1:1) and that His only concern is to seek to do the will of the one who has sent Him (Jn 4:34). The advice and the example of Jesus given to His friends is not to worry or be troubled for material things because “life is worth more than food and the body worth more than what you will wear” (Mt 6:25). In an eschatological context Jesus admonishes, “be on guard or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life” (Lk 21:34).
This is why the question of the man who asks Jesus to tell “his brother to give me a share of our inheritance (Lk 12:13) is superfluous before the Lord. Jesus refuses to act as judge between the parties (Lk 12:14) like in the case of the adulterous woman (Jn 8:2-11). We can see that, for Jesus, it is not important which of these two is right. He remains neutral before the question between the two brothers because His kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). Jesus’ behavior reflects the image which Luke gives us of the Lord, meek and humble. The accumulation of material goods, the inheritance, fame, power, do not form part of the hierarchy of Jesus’ values. In fact, He uses the question of the two brothers to repeat and confirm that “life does not depend on goods” (Lk 12:15), even if they are abundant.
As usual, here too Jesus teaches by means of a parable in which He presents “a rich man” (Lk 12:16). We would say an insatiable rich man who does not know what to do with his goods which are so abundant. (Lk 12:17). This man reminds us of the rich man who closes himself in self and is not aware of the misery of poor Lazarus (Lk 16:1-31). It is certain that we cannot define this rich man as just. Just is the one who, like Job, shares with the poor the goods received from God’s providence: “because I helped the poor who asked for help, the orphan who had no helper, the dying man’s blessing rested on me and I gave the widow’s heart cause to rejoice” (Job 29:12-13). The rich man of the parable is a foolish man (Lk 12:20) who has his heart full of goods received, forgetting God, the Supreme and only One who is good. He “accumulates treasures for himself, but is not enriched before God” (Lk 12:21). In his foolishness he is not aware that everything is bestowed freely from God’s providence, not only his goods but also his life. The terminology used in the parable makes us notice this:
- The harvest: “The land […] had given a good harvest” (Lk 12:16)
- The life: “This very night the demand will be made for your soul” (Lk 12:20).
It is not wealth in itself which constitutes the foolishness of this man but it is his avarice and greed which reveal his foolishness. In fact, he says, “My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time” (Lk 12:19).
The attitude of the wise man instead is very different. We see this for example embodied in the person of Job who with great detachment, exclaims, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return again. Yahweh gave, Yahweh has taken back. Blessed be the name of Yahweh!” (Job 1:21). The wisdom tradition has handed down or transmitted to us some teachings on the right attitude to have before riches: Prov 27:1; Sir 11:19; Eccl 2:17-23; 5:17-6:2. The New Testament also admonishes on this point: Mt 6:19-34; I Cor 15:32; Jas 4:13-15; Rev 3:17-18.
4. Question to orientate the meditation and the application:
● What struck you most in this passage and in the reflection?
● What does it mean for you that Jesus remains neutral toward the rich man’s question?
● Do you believe that avarice has something to do with the social condition in which one finds oneself? (the answer may be the opposite of what you might expect)
● Do we believe in God’s providence?
● Are you conscious or aware that what you possess has been given to you by God, or rather do you feel that you are the absolute master of your goods?
● How does fear enter into our greed or our charity? Do you fear not having enough? Do you use fear (of being sued perhaps) as an excuse for not getting involved in helping your neighbor (as Jesus defines it) on a personal level?
● When you share your wealth, is it through an organization which provides return benefits? If you receive a tax deduction, discount, coupons, or other compensation, is it really a “gift” (and with spiritual benefit), or would Jesus say that you have had your repayment? (see Lk 14:13, Lk 6:35, Mt 6:2-4)
"May You be blessed, Yahweh, God of Israel our ancestor, for ever and for ever!
Yours, Yahweh, is the greatness, the power, the splendor, length of days and glory, everything in heaven and on earth is Yours. Yours is the sovereignty, Yahweh; You are exalted, supreme over all.
Wealth and riches come from You, You are ruler of all, in Your hand lie strength and power, and You bestow greatness and might on whomsoever You please.
So now, our God, we give thanks to You and praise Your majestic name, for who am I and what is my people, for us to be able to make this freewill offering like this? - since everything has come from You and we have given You only what You bestowed in the first place, and we are guests before You, and passing visitors as were all our ancestors, our days on earth fleeting as a shadow and without hope.
Yahweh our God, all this wealth, which we have provided to build a house for Your holy Name, has come from You and all belongs to You.
Knowing, my God, how You examine our motives and how You delight in integrity, with integrity of motive I have willingly given all this and have been overjoyed to see Your people, now present here, willingly offering their gifts to You.
Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel our ancestors, watch over this for ever, shape the purpose of Your people's heart and direct their hearts to You, and give an undivided heart to Solomon my son to keep Your commandments, Your decrees and Your statutes, to put them all into effect and to build the palace for which I have made provision."
Bend my heart to Your instructions,
not to selfish gain.
Avert my eyes from pointless images,
by Your word give me life.