Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Feeding yourself entirely on his Divine Will”
- Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23. Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! For what profit are all the toil and anxiety of heart?
- Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11. Set your heart on what pertains to higher realms. Your life is hidden with Christ in God. You are formed anew in the image of the Creator.
- Luke 12:13-21. Possessions do not guarantee life. Grow rich in the sight of God. Avoid greed in all its forms.
Thought for your Reflection: By John Gonzalez
Scripture is consistent in its stance against greed and all forms of self-indulgence. In today’s readings and especially in the Gospel we are presented with a very strong case against the hoarding of possessions. But what struck me as curious when I read the Gospel for this Sunday is the specific case that was brought to Jesus’ attention which launched his exhortation against greed. In this case a person in the crowd does not seem to be making a greedy petition. Instead he is asking Jesus to advocate for a fair and balanced distribution. Jesus rejects the case as a symptom of greed.
Many of us who work on issues of economic justice are usually in favor of regulations or some methods of systemic economic redistribution. We don’t advocate for this because we believe that if everyone had their fair share that all would be right with the world, that solution would be a bit simplistic. We advocate for policies of economic justice because everyone has the right to a basic and sustainable lifestyle and because people should have the opportunity to develop their potential without economic impediment. But the challenge of this week’s readings is not to advocate against greed and self interest in favor of a plan for economic redistribution. This will miss the point completely. The challenge is to face a basic human attitude that corrupts us all. The extent of one’s greed is not always measured by how much one possesses. It is an attitude of self centeredness that transcends the measure of our possessions. As some say, “it is not how much you have, but what you do with it that counts.”
In the first reading the philosopher Qoheleth uses the mantra “vanity of vanities… all things are vanity” as an exhortation to moderation in this life. Focusing your efforts on any of the glories of this world is a vain effort. In this week’s reading Qoheleth critiques financial profit as a vain effort but throughout his twelve chapters he also critiques pleasure seeking, pursuit of wisdom, retribution and justice, as vain efforts as well. If we are to focus our single attention on any of these then we will commit ourselves to an unfulfilled life. Ecclesiastes ends by telling us “the last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all.”
In the second reading Paul continues to emphasis this ultimate goal within a Christological framework. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above… Put to death then, the parts of you that are earthly.” This is the attitude adjustment that Jesus is requesting of us in the Gospel reading. To put aside our own desire and will for earthly riches whatever they may be. Christians like other people of faith believe that there is a higher power and we humbly accept the fact that we are not the highest order of creation. In pursuing the ultimate goal for our humanity we are attepmting to integrate our lives with the Divine Will which will give us the greatest meaning and purpose to our existence.
Passionist founder and mystic St. Paul of the Cross centered his spirituality on the element of mystically dying to oneself in the way that St. Paul the Apostle presents it to us in the second reading for this week. In a spiritual direction he gave in 1752 St. Paul of the Cross says:
Why not leave the care of everything to the blessed God. Why not allow these anxieties and these fears to disappear in the fire of divine charity where they will be quickly annihilated? Why not live abandoned and reposed as a baby on the bosom of the Heavenly Father, feeding yourself entirely on his Divine Will and leaving to him the care of everything? Do you believe that you have to make the foundation by your force of arms? Either God wills it or he does not will it. If he wills it, all the world and all of hell are unable to block it. If he does not will it, and all the world struggles to force it, nothing will happen. Or if something comes out of it, it will be building on sand and quickly be brought to earth. Who can resist the Will of God?
This selection is not a call for us to be passive. Instead, along with the readings for this weekend, we are challenged to focus our orientation on a greater vision that is beyond our own self-interest. We each have our own possessions, gifts and responsibilities. Rather than comparing what we have and competing with our neighbors we are called to use our resources to build up a world based on the love that God has for us all and a love which we are asked to freely give to one another. This is God’s will and our ultimate purpose.
Economic Justice is very much a part of the Christian social agenda, however true justice will not be addressed merely with policies of economic redistribution. For us Christians justice flows from an attitude that is based on love. It is an attitude of self giving and self sacrifice for the sake not of our own will and desire but for the universal Divine Will that calls us into an intimate and shared union with all humanity and creation. As St. Paul the Apostle tells us this week, “[you] have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”