18th Sunday Reflection: The Parable Of The Rich Fool
Franciscan Reflections From The Hermitage – 18th Sunday In Ordinary Time – The Parable Of The Rich Fool – (Luke 12:13-21)
Jesus’ parable today is about greed. Greed is like a fire… the more wood you pile onto it, the hungrier it gets. This is the horrible paradox in greed… it’s never satisfied by what it desires. Rather, the opposite is true. “When money increases,” observed John Cassian (b. 360), “the frenzy of covetousness intensifies. Greed is insatiable: It always wants more than a person can accumulate.”
Many have bought into the marketing ploy that more is better, to have and to hold in abundance is to ‘be someone’, to have value, to be worthy of admiration and love. To have nothing is to be nothing, to be a no-one. This leads us also to build ever bigger barns to store our surplus.
For Cyril of Alexandria, this covetousness is nothing more than a form of idolatry… this parable revolves around the concept of gift. Is he going to hoard the gift, as a proud and fearful Pharisee might do, and thus be guilty of greed? To be rich toward God is to love virtue instead of wealth and to believe that God is the giver of all things, including life and salvation?
Here is the hell that Dante describes at the great feast set before hungry guests… their spoons will only allow each one to feed each other, but in their grasping, clingy greed, they cannot bring themselves to give away what they crave for themselves, and so the gnawing desperate hunger is never satisfied.
As middle age shock therapy, the Divine Comedy presents us with the same choice, holding up a mirror of the destination that our choice represents. Dante places his vision of the abyss of hell next to the doorway of faith. To live without faith is to live without hope… this is hell… this is already damnation. Do we have the courage to look in that mirror at the terrible consequences of the choices we are making today?
Can we take this possibility of damnation seriously?
We are being sold into the grips of a terrible creeping pandemic in which people define themselves by net financial worth, by looks, by fame, and by prestige. But this is a mirage of that true love that each of us desires, the only food that can truly satisfy. Death is already in the kernel as much in the felling of the mighty oak.
It is said that true love is to be found in beginnings and in endings… in the original innocence of a new-born baby and the fading moments of friends’ death.
The source of love is always self-emptying, shifting the centre of my being to another. This is our roadmap to truth, the pathway leading us out of illusion.
This is the Path of Conscious Love, that transformation of the heart to see, using the energy of eros through the self-emptying process that mirrors midwifery. In this way, I give the icon of my soul into the hands of another. There can be no holding back, no clinging, no demand for a return, no expectation of reward as I lay bare my naked face to the other in complete vulnerability.
St Francis, like us, grappled deeply with this invitation of Jesus to give all, to take nothing, and to embrace the cross.
It is the beloved who holds the key to my soul cage. This bond of unity transcends time and space, beyond the road of sacrificial death that transforms and expands to encompass everything, even to the heart of the universe.