Gospel Reflection for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Sister Veronica Lawson rsm (
Every faithful Jew and every faithful Christian knows that “the earth belongs to God and all that is in it” (Psalm 24). That does not stop people from arguing over possessions and even killing for them. It never has. There seems to be something deep within the human psyche that continually seeks for more, even where there is more than enough to sustain a good quality of life. Those who seek to be “rich toward God” or “rich in God” find life. Those who seek to be rich in all sorts of material possessions will simply be left, at life’s end, with a question: “To whom will this hoard belong?” The question is rhetorical in today’s gospel. It expects the answer of Psalm 24: the earth and all that is in it belongs to God.
Jesus is addressed as “teacher”, and is asked to force a decision in an inheritance debate. He demonstrates that he is “teacher” rather than “divider”. He tells a hard hitting story. Jesus knows that story-telling is more effective in bringing people to make life-giving decisions than is any attempt to bring down a definitive ruling, especially for those who surely know the law.
His story is about a landowner who is blessed by an abundant harvest. The estate manager or steward as well as the peasant workers and their families might reasonably expect a share in the profits, maybe a remission of the debts they inevitably carry. In this instance, the blessing of abundance turns the land-owner in upon himself rather than out to others and so “toward God”. First person singular pronouns predominate: “What am I to do? I have no place…. I will do this…. I will …. I will …. I will ….” The futility or senselessness of stockpiling for personal gain is highlighted by the shift to second person singular: “You fool…” and the divine judgment on the landowner’s self focus and greed.
Just two weeks ago, I was privileged to be at the death bed of a feisty gospel woman who had little by way of material goods. She threw in her lot some fifty years ago with her Mercy sisters and over the decades placed her trust in the goodness of a generous God. Her footprint on the earth was ever so gentle. She knew that the good things of the earth belong to God and to all of God’s people, and she lived in the light of that faith. She was and is forever “rich toward God”. She understood today’s gospel and showed us how to make it a reality in our lives.