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Meditation of Archbishop Pizzaballa: XVIII Sunday of Ordinary Time, year C

Published: July 31 Wed, 2019

August 4, 2019

XVIII Sunday of Ordinary Time, year C

In today’s Gospel passage (Lk 12:13-21), a man approaches Jesus to ask Him to be a mediator with his brother, so that the paternal inheritance is divided equally.

Responding to him, Jesus shifts attention and goes beyond, goes to the essential. The problem of the relationship between the two brothers will not be solved when the inheritance will be divided equally, but when the heart of each one will be free from the need to possess, and to own more and more. Otherwise, the relationship will always be threatened by avarice and greed, which are never satisfied, and never enough.

It’s not a moral teaching to be poor, detached, in giving to others, in getting along, in being good. It’s a question of meaning, of understanding what life is, what true wealth is, what gives security. One can have everything, but cannot possess life. The Word cautions, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (Lk 12:15).

That’s why Jesus uses a parable and tells it to the crowd that surrounds him, not only to those who asked him. And this because it’s a problem that is not just an individual’s: it is all of us.

There is a rich man, who, besides being wealthy, also has the fortune of an abundant harvest.

He is also a skilled and clever man: he asks himself what he should do to preserve this wealth.

And he does what we probably would have done too: he builds places to collect everything, accumulates what he has and then proposes to enjoy his possessions.

For Jesus, this man is a fool: why?

In the responsorial psalm, there is a description of the wise man:

“Teach us, therefore, to count our days well, to acquire a wise heart” (Ps 90: 12).

The foolish man counts his possessions and his riches, while he is wise who counts his days, or is aware that his days are limited, that life is vanity. He is wise who knows limit, smallness, his weakness.

Whoever counts his possessions, but does not count his days, is a fool, like the rich man in the parable, who, after having amassed so much wealth, thinks he has eliminated limit, that he has driven death away: “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” (Lk 12:19).

But this is not the case: death does not go away; death is overcome. On the contrary, whoever accumulates with the illusion of moving away from it, somehow approaches it. The man in the parable is already done with life; he speaks only with himself; he folds up his tent, and he no longer invests anything. Time stops for him, and he is no longer a man on the way.

But not only should one not accumulate: sometimes it comes by itself.

Jesus, a verse later, becomes paradoxical, where, in v. 33, says to give, to sell all that one has and then to give alms, to find real wealth. It’s the space of trust and gift, the place of real wealth, which makes life eternal.

Two movements cross the whole Gospel: first, that of those who keep for themselves (the rich man, the rich young man, Judas), and that’s always a movement of death. Second, the movement of those who give without calculating (the poor widow, the forgiven sinner, Zacchaeus), which is always a movement of life.

But the first to enter this movement is Jesus Himself: He is the rich man who becomes poor, who empties himself (Phil 2), to give all he has. This emptying movement is followed by the glory of an eternal name, the name of “Lord” who has conquered death.

It is there that true fraternity is recomposed: not that which is content with justice, of sharing its goods equally, as the man who turns to Jesus would have liked; but that which makes of the gratuitous gift the way to eternal life, given for all.

+ Pierbattista