EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus
Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Psalm 90; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-31
Theme: How much land does a man need?
- Leo Tolstoy, in his 1886 short play, tells the story of Pahom, a very great and hardworking farmer who was dissatisfied with the amount of land he had. Greed and the thought of great wealth made him to want more. He is introduced to the Bashkirs, and is told that they are simple-minded people who own a huge amount of land. Pahom goes to them to buy as much of their land for as low a price as he can negotiate. Their offer is very unusual: for a sum of one thousand rubles, Pahom can walk around as large an area as he wants, starting at daybreak, marking his route with a spade along the way. If he returns to his starting point by sunset that day, all the land his route encloses will be his, but if he does not reach his starting point, he will lose his money and receive no land. He is delighted, as he believes that he can cover a great distance and has chanced upon the bargain of a lifetime. On the agreed day, he began at dawn, marking out land until just before the sun sets. Toward the end, he realizes he is far from the starting point and runs back as fast as he can to the waiting Bashkirs. He finally arrives at the starting point just as the sun sets. The Bashkirs cheer his good fortune, but exhausted from the run, Pahom drops dead. His servant buries him in an ordinary grave only six feet long. Now, we ask the question: how much land does a man truly need?
- This story reflects the exact point of today’s readings. The first reading says most of the things we greedily chase are all vanity; in the second reading, St. Paul enjoins us to put to death, covetousness (greed), which is a form of idolatry; and Jesus warns us to beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Worst still is the fact that Qoheleth tells us that after all the toil, we shall still die and leave our possessions to others to enjoy, sometimes, even people who know nothing of how we suffered to get them.
- The farmer in Jesus’ parable exemplifies for us, how foolish we sometimes get when we become greedy and pursue earthly wealth. He was not called a fool because he worked hard or because his farm yielded a great harvest; rather it was for other reasons, and we shall consider just two of them.
- Selfishness – His speech, from what Jesus tells us, depicts great selfishness. He was all about “I”, “Me”, “My”. Everything started and ended with him. And this is a very common trait among all greedy people. They do not think of others, they do not care about what happens to others, so long as they are satisfied. They hoard things they do not need and would scarcely share with the ‘have nots’ of society. The farmer thought of pulling down his barns and building bigger ones rather than giving out the old stuff. We too will come under God’s condemnation if we behave like that. We may want to ask ourselves how generous we have been with our possessions, especially those we sometimes have in excess and may no longer even use. The clothes, shoes, bags, furniture, food, etc. lying idly in your house that you or your children have not used for a long time and may no longer use belong to the less privileged. Please give them out and let God bless you
- Earthly mindedness – The farmer was also earthly minded in that while he made plans for his future here on earth, his speech does not suggest he had any plan for death and the life after. St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we ought to seek more the things that are above, where Christ is. The danger we must avoid is that when we get too steeped in avarice, we lose sight of the real things and we begin to think we have security in the number of possessions we have, forgetting that life is short and fleeting. Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us the shortness of our lives that we may gain wisdom of heart.” As we plan for our future here on earth, may we never fail to plan also for our eternity.
4. Today, dear child of God, we are challenged to look at our lives again and reevaluate our relationship with material possessions. Today, we are encouraged to kill avarice before it kills us. Today, God invites us to seek him first, and he shall add to us, every other thing (Mat 6:33). Today, Jesus wants us to come to the realization that the true value of life does not depend on how much material things we have, for indeed, they are all vanity. Again, we should ask ourselves the question: how much land does a man truly need? May the Lord Jesus help us to truly keep our eyes fixed on the things of heaven. Amen