BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke



Readings: Eccl 1: 2; 2: 21-23; Col 3: 1-5, 9-11; Lk 12: 13-2

“Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, 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 property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.” (Qo 1-2).

“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 store all my grain and other goods and 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 all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” (Lk 12).
It is no coincidence that today’s liturgy offers a bitter page as a first reading by that biblical writer so1 surprising and “scathing”, Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes. The first line of his book is in fact entrusted to the proclamation of the emptiness that threats all human realities. “Vanity of vanities” in Hebrew is a kind of superlative of the word habel / hebel, which means breath, steam, smoke, wind, emptiness, nothing. This “immense void”, pains and crumbles the wealth that a human person considers as an indestructible foundation on which to build his own destiny, future of happiness and joy. The question of the parable of Jesus “to whom will they belong?” – is anticipated by Qohelet in his representation of the looming emptiness and death of all things.

The stupid son finds himself covered in the gold of his inheritance and is ready to squander what hasn’t cost him even a drop of sweat. The father has had the fatigue, the son the fruit; to the father the application of intelligence at work, to the son the task of burning all the result. Even this, Qoheleth says is Vanity! Hence, the parable of Jesus that today’s gospel proposes to us goes beyond the theme developed by this wise man of the Old Testament. An aspect dear to the preaching of Jesus is subtly introduced, that of the urgency of the decision to commit oneself to the Kingdom of God.

The rich man in the parable, always says “I” (I shall tear down, build, store, say …), he always uses the possessive adjective “my” (my goods, my crops, my barns, myself, my soul). No one else enters his horizon. A Man closed-in to himself, without bridges, not only devoid of generosity, but devoid of relationship. His’ is not life. Therefore, God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.”

Jesus does not evoke death as a threat to make us despise the goods of the earth. The gospel does not contest the desire to enjoy the short joys our life’s pilgrimage can bring as the rich man would like to do (my soul, rest, eat, drink, have fun …). Jesus does not act like certain preachers who spread a veil of sad rejection on the things of the world, as if to be out of love with life; he does not say that bread is not good, that well-being is bad. He says that man does not live by bread alone. Indeed, of only bread, of only well-being, of things alone, man dies. That our life does not depend on what we have, but on what we give. Life lives on life given. We are only rich in what we have given away. On the columns of having, we will find in the end only what we have lost for someone else.

The rich man has created a desert around him. He is alone, isolated at the center of warehouses full of him. No one else is named, no one in the house, no poor at the door, no one to share the joy of the harvest with. People are less important than sacks of grain. He doesn’t live well. In this parable, Jesus intends to answer a global demand for happiness that feeds on at least two conditions: it can never be lonely and always has to do with gifts. Do you want to live life in full? Do not look for it in the market of things: things promise what they cannot keep. Things have a bottom, and the bottom of things is empty. So, it is with those who accumulate treasures for themselves and do not enrich themselves with God. The alternative is clear: those who accumulate “for themselves” slowly die. Whoever enriches in God, accumulating good relationships, giving instead of holding back, has found the secret of a life that does not die.

Fr. Jude Chijioke

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