|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23||Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17||Col 3:1-5, 9-11||Lk 12:13-21|
Discipleship: God’s gifts vs our possessions
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings examine a disciple’s relationships with God, the neighbor, and possessions.
In the first reading from Ecclesiastes (or Qoheleth), the author sees human life without God’s presence as empty or ineffective (“vanity”). Qoheleth’s message corresponds to today’s gospel story about proper relationships with God, people, and things.
The second reading is a continuation from the letter to the Colossians. The author warns the Colossians that baptism requires them to “seek what is from above.” He singles out πλεονεξία (pleh-oh-nex-EE-ah), here translated as “greed,” but better understood as “desiring to have more than is due.” The same word appears in today’s gospel: “Take care to guard against πλεονεξία.”
In Luke’s gospel Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem and his teachings on discipleship. Today Jesus encounters a family conflict and answers with a parable about seeing and valuing what’s important.
- The conflict: A man in the crowd calls out: “Tell my brother to share the inheritance!” Families often asked a rabbi (“teacher”) to help settle such disputes. However, Jesus recognizes in the request–“tell my brother”–that the man has already decided what is “just,” and wants Jesus to authorize his position.
- Jesus’ answer: Jesus disapproves. He addresses the man as ἄνθρωπε (ANTH-roh-peh), a derogatory title similar to “Hey, pal.” Jesus continues, “Who appointed me your μεριστής (meh-ris-TAYS)?” The word μεριστής means literally “a divider,” someone who judges between two parties and divides possessions. Jesus comes to unite–he refuses to divide further this already-divided family. Jesus recognizes the dispute is not about property. He offers a wisdom saying: “Life does not consist of possessions.” To emphasize the contrast between life and possessions, Jesus tells a parable that places relationships, gifts, and possessions in their correct order.
- The parable: A first-century farmer depended on many things he didn’t control–rain, sun, soil condition, seed quality. Farmers knew that the harvest was God’s gift, not a result of a farmer’s skill. Jews understood they were stewards of all God’s gifts–food, family, life, health–not masters or owners. When an already-rich man gets an unexpected “bountiful harvest,” Jesus’ hearers expect the man to ask his family and neighbors what he should do with his gift. Instead, the rich man decides alone what to do, without considering God’s word (Torah) or his community. The rich man has no relationships; he worries only about possessions. He doesn’t recognize God’s gift; he treats the bountiful harvest as his own possession. Believing he is now set for life, the rich man celebrates his wise choice. “Fool,” says God, the true owner and master of all gifts, and calls in the rich man’s loan–his life. Jesus concludes by warning about valuing things that are of no value to God.
Today’s readings force RCIA participants and all of us to examine our attitudes about possessions. Do we recognize God as the source of our gifts? Do we act as stewards or owners of these gifts? Do we value our relationships with God and neighbor above possessions? How do we use our gifts?