Sunday 4 August 2019: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23. Colossians 3:1-5,9-11. Luke 12:13-21

We often say we would like to win the lotto – to pay our bills, pay university fees for our children, and maybe enjoy a holiday! While some extra funds would undoubtedly help us, as today’s readings tell us, this would not necessarily ensure our happiness. Money cannot buy happiness and worldly success cannot be our god.

Our readings today speak of meaning and of priority: what gives meaning to my life, what is my priority in life? Is it my work, my possessions, my successes? The first reading tells us that to measure ourselves and our lives by these material things, is vanity: it is superficial, false. Work, money, success, are all important because indeed without money we cannot go far, but these, even if well-earned, are not the measure of being human. As we are told in the first reading and again so starkly in the Gospel, all of this will be stripped away from us when we are called by God to return to the earth from which we have come, as indeed every one of us will be called.

Today’s Gospel is known as the Parable of the Rich Fool. The rich farmer is not a fool because he was wealthy; in fact, he was quite obviously a wise and responsible businessman. He knew how to get the best out of his farm so that it produced a great crop that ensured he had no financial burden. His only concern was how he could store it all safely so that he would sit back, relax and enjoy his golden years. I imagine all of us, would wish, like him, to have enough wealth set aside to ensure a comfortable lifestyle.

The rich farmer is a fool, not because he is wealthy or saves for the future, but because of his greed, his selfishness and his order of priorities in life.  In the parable, he talks only to himself and refers only to himself. Its all about ‘I’: “What am I to do?; I have not enough room to store my crops; This is what I will do; I will pull down my barns, and build new ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them; I will say to my soul…eat, drink, have a good time”.  He doesn’t think of anyone else; he shows no gratitude to God who gave the land and the rain to produce the crops or to any of the workers who probably helped on his farm. He expresses no notion of sharing his wealth with anyone or using any of it to do good to others. He is presented to us as a greedy, selfish man who thinks he is solely responsible for his own life and security and wellbeing both now and in the future. He is indeed an example of vanity, forgetting that although he has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully, his life is not for him alone and it is not in his own hands. 

We live in a world today where marketing almost controls our lives, convincing us that we need this and that, constantly making us aware of what we don’t have. Children, young people and adults are bombarded with new offers which help to make us feel insecure, dissatisfied with what we have, feeling we don’t have enough. Today’s readings invite us to reflect on our priorities in life, to remember that fullness of life cannot be reduced to an abundance of possessions. Surely, God wants each human being to be able to eat, drink, be merry and enjoy the good things God has created. But it is our attitude towards these things that today’s readings speak of.

What really matters in life is relationship. Too often, our greed for material things can lead to broken relationships with others and with God. Today’s Parable was given by Jesus in response to a dispute between two brothers over property; how often in our own experience have we seen families divided because of disputes over land, over properties, over inheritance.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” The world is indeed badly distributed, with 70% of the global population having less than 3% of the world’s wealth. We hear of climate change and the damage we in this part of the world are doing to the earth through our style of life, and the effects of this on the poorer populations of the world. We in Ireland are among the world’s wealthiest nations, with wealth in Ireland also unequally distributed. All of us do indeed have to look at our priorities and our attitudes towards wellbeing and fullness of life for all people and all creation today.

Today’s second reading, from Colossians, reminds us that in Christ, there can be no exclusion, no inequality. How many ethnic, religious, cultural and economic divisions exist in our world today because of greed. Indeed, even in our own community and maybe in our own lives there is pain and division caused by greed. In Christ, in the Kingdom where God reigns, love, not greed, is the guiding light.

To have our thoughts on heavenly things does not mean to be closed to the things of this world; rather, it means to have our priorities in their right order. We are called to let God, who is love and communion, from whom all life and all good things come, guide our thoughts and actions and be our security. In God we can trust, God is our life, God is everything and God is in everything. May we put our trust, not in our own success and belongings, but in God who is our refuge and strength. May we be grateful to God for the many blessings we have received and make ourselves rich in the sight of God by sharing whatever little we have with those in need.

Sr Kathleen McGarvey OLA
Published in The Furrow
July/August 2019, page 427