The parables of Christ are wonderful teaching tools. They are carefully crafted to catch our attention. Remember the parable of the landowner who goes out in the morning and hires workers for his vineyard? He goes out at the end of the day and hires some more workers who only work for an hour, but he pays everyone the same. I have read that parable many times, but I still sympathize with the morning workers who exclaim, “Not fair!” Today our parable (Luke 12:13 – 21) is more subtle but should be no less disturbing. The rich farmer has more stuff than he can store (aren’t you glad you don’t have that problem). The farmer’s thought process seems perfectly reasonable, but the implication is that his only dialog partner is himself. You and I may sit at a desk, or lay on a couch, and reason through a problem, but don’t we need to talk ideas through with someone else? In my life, I call that a reality check. Christ’s audience would have felt that even more vividly. In the ancient world, clan was important and family was everything. The rich farmer has no one to consult but himself. In the end, God speaks to him, saying, “your priorities are all messed up.” The parable implies that the farmer doesn’t even hear God.
What is the point? Christ prefaces the parable with the statement, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Our first reading from Ecclesiastes gives us the same message. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Keep in mind, vanity is an unfortunate translation of the Hebrew word “hevel”, which doesn’t carry the connotation of being self-absorbed. Hevel literally means mere breath and means that somethings are futile and temporary, like a puff of smoke, or morning mist. We know intuitively that so much we work hard for is temporary, yet we place a great deal of importance on our material well-being. Don’t we all sometimes wonder, “what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” What really matters in life? Christ sums up the parable by warning His listeners, us, “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” That is the point of Christianity. We need to carefully determine what is important to God and make that the focus of our lives.
We all know, at least in the back of our minds, that what really matters in life is relationship. We see this in our care for our family, friends, the people who are important to us. Christ came into the world to give us the insight and strength to focus on that reality and live it. Our unity with the people around us is a sign of our unity with God. The message of the Cross is sacrificial love. That sacrifice offers you and I reconciliation with God; a new and deeper relationship with Him. The Christian mission is to make that message, authentic love as self-giving, the focus of our lives. Christ has given us a sure framework in the teachings of the Catholic Church which are meant to guide us to that reality. The teaching of the Catholic Church is a sure guide for authentic life.
Our task is to prayerfully work to hear the Word of Christ and live a deeper relationship with Him. A good measure of our success is to remember that the quality of our love of God is how we deal with the people around us.