August 4, 2013 –– Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Paul calls the Colossians (and, thus, calls us) to “Seek what is above,” (Col 3:1). This is a fitting theme for all of the readings for this Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The English romantic poet William Wordsworth wrote a poem titled The World is too Much with Us, the theme of which parallels today’s readings. In other words, as Christians, Catholics, and good stewards, we must appreciate and understand that we have greater purposes than this earthly existence.
As is often the case, especially with the Old Testament, scripture is richer if we understand some of the historical background. The book of Ecclesiastes is part of a group of Old Testament books under the heading “The Wisdom Books.” Ecclesiastes is the Greek translation from the Hebrew Qoheleth which means “preacher” or “gatherer” (of wisdom). The first sentence of Chapter 1 identifies the author as “David’s son, Qoheloth, king in Jerusalem.” That would imply that the author is Solomon, although scholars disagree whether it was really Solomon.
Nevertheless, the entire book examines the question many of us ask: “What is the meaning of life?” The writer is searching for what might provide true happiness to us. The philosopher/author rejects pleasure, work, wealth, and wisdom — all things of this world. He concludes that the answer cannot be found in this world; we must look beyond this realm for true happiness.
St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the second reading, reinforces what Ecclesiastes examines and finds. Paul writes, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:2). Paul makes this point often — if we aspire to be a disciple of Christ, a steward of all that we have and experience on this earth, we must strive to “put to death … the parts of you that are earthly.” Everything we do to build the Kingdom of God needs to be done with an eye on what is to come, not with an eye on the present.
Jesus’ favorite way of teaching was the use of parables. The parable in today’s Gospel (Lk 12: 13-21) is often called the Parable of the Rich Fool. As the Lord states in His opening of the reading, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (Lk 13:21). This parable tells the story of a successful and wealthy farmer who declares his harvest is so large that he must build additional storage bins to store it.
To paraphrase, Jesus asks the rich farmer, “Store it for what?” This parable and all of the readings challenge us to consider how we live; how we tend to store up treasures in this world. Stewardship does not mean we cannot have treasures and accumulate wealth. At the same time, a stewardship way of life confronts us with the reality of what is honestly significant. We are asked to share in proportion to how we have received, to reach out to others, and to accept the fact that what we are and what we have is only through the grace of God.