Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 31 July 2022
Lectionary Readings: Eccl. 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
Theme: Rich in the Eyes of God
Today’s readings from Luke, Paul, Ecclesiastes and the Psalmist subtly affirm our freedom of choice by urging us to re-examine and re-align our priorities, in the light of Christ, who is our life! The setting of the gospel is pluralistic Syrian Antioch, in the early years of the ninth decade of the Christian era. There, Luke addresses primarily the Gentile Christians, who are wrestling with issues of their mission and their wealth. Luke is sensitive to the leap of faith that a radical response to their situation will demand. A key question that emerges is theodicy, that is, vindication of divine providence in the face of the existence of evil; for Luke’s people that implies trusting the loving, caring fidelity of God even in the midst of their real anguish over the destruction of Jerusalem, the holy city, and its temple.
Luke’s reflection extends beyond these nine verses, but here he focuses on Jesus’ identification of a major challenge that they encounter. He invites them to look at the deleterious effect that possessions can have on the disciple. He bluntly names as avarice, the motive that prompts their persistent hoarding of possessions, as the basis of their security in self-sufficiency. He warns them that life does not consist in possessions; he invites them instead to humbly acknowledge their dependence on God, and to risk sharing their wealth through generous alms-giving in favor of those in need. This will lead them into attitudes, relations, and commitments that will render them “rich in the sight of God” (12:21).
To illustrate his point, Jesus recounts a parable about a rich man who took enormous pride in the security that his crops assured him for a life of eating, drinking and celebrating. But then, on the verge of expanding his storage units, he realizes what a fool he has been: now aware that death awaits him, he must face the hard truth of his dissipated life. As Ecclesiastes proclaims, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!”
In contrast, the Colossians passage offers the ethical perspective of baptism: stripping off the “old self,” we assume our “new self” that is “hidden with Christ in God,” by “seeking the things that are above, where Christ is.” Psalm 90, which is identified as “a Psalm of Moses,” is a humble, yet confident prayer for the personal conversion portrayed in these readings. Lamenting the fragility and mortality of human life, the Psalm implores God, in his compassion and steadfast love, to relent his divine wrath (cf. Ex. 32:12) and to teach us, so that we gain wisdom of heart.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) For you now, what might be meaningful new ways of “acknowledging your dependence on God” and of “sharing your wealth”? 2) Where do you see “wisdom of heart” responding to “human fragility”?
Bibliography: Brown, R. E. et al., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1990); Levine, A-J. and Brettler, M.Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford U. Press, New York, 2017).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Diane Willey, nds, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2005, 2006