Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
The Jamaican musician, Bob Marley, was not just a reggae legend, he was also a man of great wisdom and insight, and some of his words are timeless. Most people believe he was the first to make the popular statement: “some people are so poor, all they have is money.” In an interview with an unnamed journalist in 1976, the following conversation was recorded with Bob Marley:
Interviewer: Have you made a lot of money out of your music?
Bob Marley: Money! How much is a lot of money to you?
Interviewer: That is a good question. Have you made, say, millions of dollars?
Bob Marley: No! `
Interviewer: Are you a rich man
Bob Marley: `What do you mean by rich man?
Interviewer: Do you have a lot of possessions, a lot of money in the bank?
Bob Marley: Does possession make you rich? I don’t have that type of riches; my riches is life!
Have you considered what could qualify as the good life? Does it consist of all the material comfort you ever wanted in this life? If your answer is yes, you need to think again; in fact, listen to the preacher in the First Reading (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23). He says: “vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave the property.”
In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 12:13-21), an unnamed man in the crowd approached Jesus and asked for a legal intervention over an inheritance. He says, “tell my brother to share the inheritance with me”. It appears that the brother in question was in that crowd. Expectantly, our Lord Jesus Christ gives him and everyone an instructive response ending with a parable.
Jesus began by excusing himself from being an arbitrator and warning against all forms of greed, “for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” It sounds like Bob Marley in our opening story, right? It appears that Jesus was addressing the inner disposition of the man more than his request because he could see through his mind.
Afterward, Jesus tells the story of a rich farmer whose harvest was bountiful, and indulging in this abundance, he asked himself what he would do about the excess from his harvest since he lacked space to accommodate everything. And he goes on to answer that he would tear down his barn and build larger ones to store his grains and other goods, and then he would relax and make merry. But he did not live to see the next day and lost everything.
Jesus concluded the parable by saying that what happened to the rich man who turned out to be foolish would also happen to all those who store treasure for themselves but are not rich in the things that matter to God. Question: What things matter to God when you have wealth and riches?
The Things that Matter to God!
The rich man in the parable was not bad. He was hard working; obviously, God showed him mercy and he had more than enough. His problem was not how he got his riches but what he did with them.
Gratitude: One would expect the rich man to at least acknowledge the blessings of God for an uncommon harvest. That his barn was too small for his harvest indicated that the harvest was like never before. “Thank you, God” wouldn’t have been a big thing to say.
The attitude of the rich fool is still resonant in our day. Do we remember to thank God for the abundant harvests in our lives or do we only remember to bring petitions to God? David, the man after God’s heart, asked, “how can I repay the Lord for His Goodness to me” (Psalm116:12). Psalm 50:14 encourages us to offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfill our vows.
So, gratitude matters a lot to God. Ingratitude was the first mistake of the rich fool; he was very poor, that the only thing he could remember was the harvest and larger barns. He was celebrating the resources and forgot to acknowledge the source.
Selfless giving: A critical look at the parable shows clearly that the rich man cared about nobody but himself. There was no mention of his family and friends as potential beneficiaries of his harvest. It was all about him and his happiness. Imagine how many times he referred to himself in that short parable.
Selflessness and charity matter to God when riches come our way. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 9:8), St. Paul says that God is able to bless us abundantly in all things and at all times, and having more than enough, we can abound in every good work.
We live in a society with a yawning gap between the rich and the poor. The gap continues to widen each passing day. Some people have more than enough to eat, and they prefer to dump excess in the trash than to look for the many who are starving. God put the poor close to us so we can share with them and not despise them.
Moving Forward: Becoming the Rich Wise: We can rewrite the story of the rich fool with a narrative of the rich wise by consciously trying to be grateful to God for every blessing that comes our way. St. Paul says, “give thanks to God in all things for that is the will of God for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Givers never lack. God constantly supplies and multiplies the seed of the Sower (2 Cor. 9:10). The last thing that will matter to God is for us to make the harvest of the heavenly kingdom. Jesus said, what shall it profit anyone to have gained the whole but ends up suffering the loss of the soul in hell. (Mark 8:36). So St. Paul encourages us in the Second Reading (Col. 3:1-5,9-11) to seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
God bless you.