Monday of Week 29 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 12:13-21

We move on now in Luke to more immediate concerns of the Christian life. Today’s topic is about the perennial question of money, or rather, the love of money. A man in the crowd said to Jesus:

Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.

According to Mosaic Law the general rule was that an elder son received double that of a younger son. If there was a dispute, it was usually settled by a rabbi, which is presumably why the man approached Jesus. It was the kind of problem in which Jesus was not remotely interested, and he refused to get involved. One wonders how interested Jesus is when we make novenas to win lotteries or when we ask God to help us get our hands on the wealth of a rich and elderly aunt!!

Jesus now takes the opportunity to make some general remarks “against all kinds of greed”. A man may be wealthy, he says, but his possessions do not guarantee him life. Life comes with freedom, peace and happiness. Money cannot buy these things.

There is no evidence that rich people enjoy more freedom, peace or happiness, although many of us are inclined to think they do and we envy them. Their marriages do not last any longer. They do not bring up better children. They do not necessarily enjoy better health.

At this point Jesus speaks a telling parable. A farmer who is already rich has a bumper harvest. It is so big that he has to pull down his existing barns to build larger ones. When all that is done, he smugly says to himself: “My boy, you have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Put your feet up. Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.” But, Jesus tells them, that very night:

God said to him [the farmer], ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you’.

What happens now to all his piled-up wealth? Yes, it is all left behind. “You can’t take it with you.” “How much did he leave?” was asked about a billionaire who died. “Every red cent,” was the reply. When the farmer met his God, what had he brought with him? Little or nothing. When St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) died, how much do you think she brought? One feels she brought a great deal. And she certainly left behind a great deal to enrich the lives of many.

What is my attitude to money and wealth? If I were to die now, what could I bring with me to present to God? And what will I leave behind, apart from cash and possessions? All of us can be rich in God’s sight and it does not require any money. Someone has said that the really rich are not those who have the most but those whose needs are the least (read Luke 12:22-34, where Jesus spells out a recipe for a life free from anxiety…the life which he himself lived).

And what we need most is the ability to reach out in love, the love that builds and makes life better for others. Think of what good parents leave behind in children whose lives are dedicated to making this world a better place. Or teachers who have helped young people to devote themselves to service of the community.

What we need is to live in communities where people look after each other. A situation where, because everyone gives, everyone gets.

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