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Parable of the rich fool

Gospel Reading: Lk 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Qoheleth, as a name, sounds very strange. Literally, it means “a man of the assembly.” In the book of Ecclesiastes, it is the name attributed to the wise man who speaks to big crowds. He lives in Jerusalem in the third century BCE, a period that sees rapid and steady economic growth in the city. Trade flourishes with foreign merchants; the Jews acquire new tastes and fashion.

They grow so fascinated and enticed by great material progress that they become negligent, then indifferent, to their religious faith and practices. God now seems less important to them. Qoheleth denounces the Jews’ enslavement to riches. To bring them back to their senses, he makes the Jews confront the ultimate questions in life. Why is one born and why do we die? Where do all our labors go?

Is everything a chase in the wind? To Qoheleth, everything is vanity. Still, he adopts an attitude of calm and sobriety, not counseling uninvolvement or flight from the world or an extreme carpe diem: eat, drink, be merry… What Qoheleth teaches is to have a healthy enjoyment of what life offers. The man who approaches Jesus in the Gospel stands for the many who are not satisfied with life’s blessings.

The inheritance he is about to share with his sibling has turned into a bitter dispute. The grasya (grace) thus turns into disgrasya (disgrace). Now he wants Jesus to be their mediator. Rather than be caught in the quarrel, Jesus attacks the issue head-on with a warning. “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (v 15).

Then he gives the parable of a rich man who is wrapped up in himself: “my harvest… my barns… my grains… myself.” Other people do not have a place in his heart. He is living in a population of one, and in his world, the most important thing is himself. Here is one sad story of a man possessed by his possessions. In his life, Jesus shows how one can be rich in what matters to God.

Jesus always depends on the providence of his heavenly Father, and he teaches his disciples to do the same. Though Son of God, he does not insist in having the most sophisticated means for teaching or travel. Jesus lives a very humble and simple life, demonstrating that there is dignity in poverty. We can always relearn to distinguish our needs from our wants. God’s word reminds us that there is enough for everyone’s needs but never enough for everyone’s greed.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.