Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading (Eccles 1: 1-2; 2: 21-23):
All is vanity
“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions... God said to the rich man, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.” (Lk 12: 15 21)
Today's Scripture is unusual. Suddenly a man comes to Jesus and asks him to help him divide up his wealth!
We can say and do many things, convey many messages we ourselves think
are quite clear, but what others understand is not the same at all.
Sometimes there is a great discrepancy between what people understand
and retain and what we intend to pass on. Moreover, what people hear
and what they absorb often stems from what is most applicable and advantageous
It is very possible that the man had been unfairly treated by his brothers and had no other recourse, so he asked Jesus to help him obtain justice.
Jesus did not get involved in the man's family dispute, but he pointed out a way to solve his family problem. It was similar to Jesus not wanting to get involved in political issues but rather pointing out the spirit with which we should face political challenges.
He taught the man that in dealing with distribution of wealth he should
remember a principle: “Be on your guard
against all kinds of greed” and remember that “One's
life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”.
What he hoped was that his family would not quarrel with their neighbour about a mere three feet. Even if they won it would be of little matter. The Emperor Qin was a good example. He had once been a magnificent figure, but where was he today? The man's family followed his advice and gave the three feet to their neighbour. Their neighbour was so touched he moved back three feet also. The six foot-wide strip of land became a lane which people later called the 'Lane of Love and Justice.'
Actually there is profound philosophy behind this refusal to quarrel. It is that even if one wins the argument, it may be of no use.
The wealthy man in today's gospel thought that with all his wealth and treasures he would have no further worries. With great delight and contentment he said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Lk 12: 19) “But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, where will they be?” What is the use of gaining the whole world if we lose our soul, ruin our lives, drain away all our energy and become disillusioned and decrepit with old age?
All human beings without exception come into the world with nothing, and leave with nothing. We come into the world empty-handed, go around for a while, then leave the world empty-handed.
In Cao Xue Qin's novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber” there is a song,
“All Good Things must End.” The song says,
In the Ming Dynasty there was a song of similar meaning called “Song
Jesus' conclusion was, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.” In the end all is emptiness.
Therefore the wisest way is to “store up eternal riches before God:” leave behind some worthwhile achievements for society, acts of good will done for others, protection for one's family, good deeds for one’s descendants, actions worthy of remembering and for the world, some acts of courage to emulate. Do not hold on too tightly to any thing else.