Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Charity is the real treasure
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! For here is a man who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and to another, who has not labored over it, he must leave his property. Eccl 1,2; 2,21
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.” Lk 12,16-21
The first reading is taken from the book of Ecclesiastes, which means “preacher” in Hebrew. It is a wisdom book, which faces with the problem of the meaning of human life. Since he is unable to understand God’s plans deeply, man finds himself struggling to give a meaning to his days, searching a kind of happiness that could lighten the load of living. The Ecclesiastes has not found the key to read life: he is satisfied to deconstruct the thesis opposite to his. The importance of the book lies in the fact that it asks existential questions, which remain unanswered in the book, but they always find an answer in the gospels. It is the case of today’s excerpt: “For here is a man who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and to another, who has not labored over it, he must leave his property”. The rich man in today’s gospel wonders about the same problem, but God gives him an answer: “’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”. This excerpt make us meditate on what the real wisdom is: is it wiser to store a treasure in the bank of this earth, which we will have to leave one day, or is it better to store it in heaven, where we are headed to and where we will live in eternity? The answer is obvious, but it implies further questions: how can we move our treasures to heaven during our earthly life? What treasures can be transferred? Which ones are also valuable in heaven? The material goods are obviously left on earth and we find an answer for them in the Gospel: “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” (Lk 12, 33). However, which values among the spiritual ones do not end with the earthly life? We think that the answer to this question has been given by Saint Paul: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. …. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. …. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1Cor 13, 1-13). Faith and hope are also transferrable, as Paul says, but charity is the most valuable.