Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time “Put on the new self.” (Col. 3:10)
Today’s scripture readings can put us in touch with the boundless generosity of God’s love, care and big-hearted spirit. In the gospel reading, a man in the crowd urges Jesus to use his influence over one of the man’s family members. He says, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus’ response to this request is gentle but honest; “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Jesus implies, in other words, that the focus of his teachings and preaching isn’t on inheritances and earthly possessions, but…on salvation and eternal life.
Jesus then tells the well-known parable of a rich man whose land produced a very bountiful harvest one year. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with that; in fact, his fortune was a blessing that called for thanksgiving to God, sharing his bounty with others and celebration! However, this rich man’s thought pattern and dealings with people was usually done in a miserly fashion. He supported a way of life that promoted the “much wants more” philosophy. His plan was to build bigger barns…store more grain…and focus on his style of life to “eat, drink and be merry.” God however, interrupts the man’s stream of consciousness and puts him in touch with reality; “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” What truly counts, God says, is to store up treasure “in what matters to God.”
This parable teaches us a lesson that has been ringing loud and clear for over 2,000 years. All of us were created in the image and likeness of God. We were all blessed with different gifts and given the potential to make things better wherever we are and with whomever we meet along life’s journey. No one is meant to just live for oneself and to block out the opportunities we all have to promote the good of others. Selfishness and self-centeredness can put humans on a non-profit life path that will lead to a no-gain result in the light of eternity.
Ecclesiastes, in the first reading, sums up God’s message very well; he says, “All things are vanity.” In fact, he emphasizes, the value of material possessions can be reduced to “vanity of vanities.” Then, finally in the letter to Colossians, found in today’s second reading, the author substantiates the same Christian message we found in Ecclesiastes and Luke’s gospel. He urges us to “put to death greed and evil desires”; instead, he beckons us to “put on the new self” that is Christ. Indeed, all through the scriptures, a central theme is that to be rich is not sinful; no - what’s most important is how and what we do with our different spiritual, intellectual, physical gifts and our earthly possessions. Clearly, the just use of any blessing God gives us is that we continue to grow, stretch and move into authentic love of God, neighbor and self.
Sister Shirley Jeffcott, OP