18th Sunday in O.T.

True Wealth in Christ


Scripture Readings First Ecc 1:2, 2:21-23 Second Col 3:1-5, 9-11 Gospel Luke 12: 13-21 Prepared by: Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

Jesus turns from the disciples need to trust God amidst persecution to the subtle danger that possessions can be against total trust in God. Many obstacles lie in the path of discipleship – including an attachment to excessive wealth. This distraction of greed that is self-directed, can lead to false-comfort, fleeting security, and vain efforts at control. The pursuit of self-interest (detached from life in Christ), not only leads to anxiety and sorrow of heart, but can paralyze one’s ability to simply act (St. Basil). An emphasis on “having” over “being” imprisons the disciple and diminishes the true possession of life in Christ to the smallness of the thing possessed.

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2. Exegetical Notes

Lk 12:13-14: The man is only interested in his own problems and only views Jesus as an authority who can assist in sorting out his case. The man does not ask Jesus to arbitrate, but simply to decide against the other brother. Jesus does not honor such a partisan request. Jews often brought such disputes to a rabbi, and so this passage shows respect for Jesus and his judgment. Yet this is the second time Jesus has refused to intercede for someone complaining about a family member (cf. LK 10:38-42) LK 12:15 the term for greed is only used here and in Mark 7:22 in the Gospels. It indicates “the desire to have more”. Greed in the pursuit of possessions can lead to insensitivity toward people, disagreement and disharmony. “To define life in terms of things is the ultimate reversal of the creature serving the creation and ignoring the Creator. (Rom 1:18-

32) In Col 3:5 and Eph 5:5, greed is called idolatry because it tends to become a god that drives one to do things that are not good…Real life is rich toward God, not things.” (Bock)
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LK 12:16 The “parable of the rich fool” is one of four passages that treat possessions (cf. 12:22-34, 14:12-33, 16:1-13, and 16:19-31) LK 12:17 ff – The rich man has extensive holdings and been blessed by the Lord. Yet, the numerous uses of the pronoun mou (my: my fruit, my barn, my goods) and first person singular verbs suggests exclusive self-interest. Having laid his plans, the man concludes that he can live in self-indulgent leisure, without any thought for the needs of others. Sir 11:18-19 states: “One becomes rich through diligence and self-denial, and the reward allotted to him is this: when he says, ‘I have found rest, and now I shall feast on my goods!’ he does not know how long it will be until he leaves them to others and dies.” Despite the man’s prudent and efficient planning to accumulate wealth, God judges him a ‘fool’ and requires his soul. In the OT, a fool is one who either acts without God or without wisdom about potential destruction. (cf Job 31:24-28; Ps 14:1, 53:1; Ecc 2:1-11, Sir 11:1819) LK 12:21 The parable does not condemn planning or riches, per se. Rather the basic contrast is between riches toward oneself and toward God. In LK 19:10, Zacchaeus is a counterexample of a penitent rich man. Errors occur when one stores riches for oneself; assumes that life can be secured and measured by possessions; and when one sees property simply as one’s own.

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC # 2536: “The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods: When the Law says, ‘You shall not covet,’ these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another's goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: ‘He who loves money never has money enough.’” CCC # 2544: “Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and bids them ‘renounce all that [they have]’ for his sake and that of the Gospel. Shortly before his passion he gave them the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem who, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on. The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.” CCC # 2545: “All Christ's faithful are to ‘direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty.’” CCC # 2547: “The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods. ‘Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.’ Abandonment to the providence of the

Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.”

CCC # 2548: “Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. ‘The promise [of seeing God] surpasses all beatitude. . . . In Scripture, to see is to possess. . . . Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.’” CCC # 2445: “Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use: ‘Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.’ (Jas 5:1-6)” CCC # 2446: “St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: ‘Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.’ ‘The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity’. When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.” CCC # 2402: “In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.” CCC # 2403: “The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.” CCC # 2404: “‘In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.’ The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.”

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities

St. Athanasius: “A person who lives as if he were to die every day – given that our life is uncertain by definition – will not sin, for good fear extinguishes most of the disorder of our

appetites; whereas he who thinks he has a long life ahead of him will easily let himself be dominated by pleasures.”

St. Basil the Great: “Now why did that land bear so well, when it belonged to a man who would make no good use of its fertility? It was to show more clearly the forbearance of God, whose kindness extends even to such people as this. He sends rain on both the just and the unjust, and makes the sun rise on the wicked and the good alike.” St. Basil the Great: “But what do we find in this man? A bitter disposition, hatred of other people, unwillingness to give. This is the return he made to his Benefactor. He forgot that we all share the same nature; he felt no obligation to distribute his surplus to the needy. His barns were full to bursting point, but still his miserly heart was not satisfied. Year by year he increased his wealth, always adding new crops to the old. The result was a hopeless impasse: greed would not permit him to part with anything he possessed, and yet because he had so much there was no place to store his latest harvest. And so he was incapable of making a decision and could find no escape from his anxiety. What am I to do?” St. Basil the Great: “Who would not pity a man so oppressed? His land yields him no profit but only sighs; it brings him no rich returns but only cares and distress and a terrible helplessness. He laments in the same way as the poor do. Is not his cry like that of one hard pressed by poverty? What am I to do? Hoe can I find food and clothing?” St. Thomas Aquinas: “It is abundantly clear that the human heart is more intensely attracted to one object, in proportion as it is withdrawn from a multiplicity of desires. Therefore, the more a man is freed from solicitude concerning temporal matters, the more perfectly he will be empowered to love God.” (De Perf. Spirit. Vitae, Ch. 6) Paul VI, Populorum progressivo, 19: “Increased possession is not the ultimate goal of nations nor of individuals. All growth is ambivalent. It is essential if man is to develop as a man, but in a way it imprisons man if he considers it the supreme good, and it restricts his vision. Then we see hearts harden and minds close, and men no longer gather together in friendship but out of self-interest, which soon leads to strife and disunity. The exclusive pursuit of possessions thus becomes an obstacle to individual fulfillment and to man’s true greatness. Both for nations and for individuals, avarice is the most evident form of moral underdevelopment.” Von Balthasar: “Jesus distinguishes between having and being. Being is a man’s life and existence; assets are the larger or smaller assemblage of possessions {having} that permit him to continue living...If God is our treasure, then we must be dominated by the thought that God’s endless wealth is found in his self-giving and self-emptying, that is, in the very opposite of the wish to have everything.” Von Balthasar: “But ‘heavenly things’ are not the treasures, merits, and rewards we have piled up in heaven, rather, they are simply ‘Christ.’ He is ‘our life,’ the truth of our existence, for we owe to him everything that we are, in God and for God – we are precisely in him ‘in whom all treasures are hidden’ (Col 2:3).” Von Balthasar: “All forms of the desire to have, which Paul proceeds to list (Col 3:5 ff) and which are merely various degenerative forms of yearning, must now be ‘put to death’ for the sake of being in Christ. This putting to death is in truth a birth: the ‘becoming of a new person.’ In the course of this putting to death, all divisions that delimit the being of man

(‘slave’ or ‘free’) fall away, while everything valuable about our specific being (Paul calls this the ‘charisma’ [the giftedness]) contributes to the ultimate fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-16).”

Pope John Paul II: “Jesus affirms for everyone the need to make a basic decision regarding earthly goods: to be freed of their tyranny. No one, he says, can serve two masters.”

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

Orthodox Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray: “Have you ever noticed that to be rich always means an impoverishment of another level? It is enough for you to say ‘I have this watch, it is mine,’ and close your hand on it, to be in possession of a watch and to have lost a hand. And if you close your mind on your riches, if you close your heart so that you can keep what is in it safe, never to lose it, then it becomes as small as the thing on which you have closed yourself in.”

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

“A fantasy of people with property takes no account of the fact that, for the great majority of mankind, life is a struggle. On those grounds I would see this idea of choosing one’s own path in life as a selfish attitude and as a waste of one’s vocation. Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so that he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him.” “We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one’s inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who ‘risks the fire,’ who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. It is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.” “The poverty that Jesus means – that the prophets mean – presupposes above all inner freedom from the greed for possession and the mania for power. This is a greater reality than merely a different distribution of possessions, which would still be in the material domain and thereby make hearts even harder. It is first and foremost a matter of purification of heart, through which one recognizes possession as responsibility, as a duty towards others, placing oneself under God’s gaze and letting oneself be guided by Christ, who from being rich became poor for our sake.” “Two sorts of satisfaction are contrasted here: being satiated with material goods, and satisfaction with beholding ‘thy form’ – the heart becoming sated by the encounter with infinite love. The words ‘when I awake’ are at the deepest level a reference to the awakening into new and eternal life, but they also speak of a deeper ‘awakening’ here in this world: Man wakes up to the truth in a way that gives him a new satisfaction here and now.” Jesus of Nazareth

“After Jesus’ Crucifixion two wealthy men make their appearance, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who had discovered the Lord and were in the process of ‘awakening’. The Lord wants to lead us from foolish cleverness toward true wisdom; he wants to teach us to discern the real good…The next life only brings to light the truth already present in this life. Of course, this parable, by awakening us, at the same time summons us to the love and responsibility that we owe now to our poor brothers and sisters – both on the large scale of the world society and on the small scale of our everyday life.” Jesus of Nazareth

7. Other Considerations
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Wealth toward self is poverty before God. It is only wealth handled with generosity that meets God’s approval (cf 1 Tim 6:17-19) Ecc focuses on the anxiety, sorrow, and grief that comes with toil for the sake of simply building up one’s treasure. Col reminds the disciple that “Christ” is now his “life.” So focus on what leads you to Him. In the Gospel parable, Jesus highlights this true wisdom by the example of the foolish greed that cannot be enjoyed. True treasure comes from the richness of being (living) in and for God, where “you too will appear with him in glory.”

Recommended Resources Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, trans. Adrian Walker, New York: Doubleday, 2007 Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI, ed. Peter John Cameron, OP, Spain: Ignatius Press/Magnificat, 2006. Darrell L. Bock, Luke Vol 2, 9:51-24:53, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996. Christ Our Light: Readings on Gospel Themes II, Ordinary Time, trans. And ed. By Friends of Henry Ashworth, Exordium Books, 1985. Basil Cole, OP and Paul Conner, OP, Christian Totality: Theology of the Consecrated Life, New York: Alba House, 1997. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Light of the World: Brief Reflections on the Sunday Readings, trans. Dennis D. Martin, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Washington, DC: USCCB, 2006.

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