Sunday Scripture readings, Aug. 4, 2019: Concerning foolishness
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17
2) Col 3:1-5, 9-11
Gospel: Lk 12:13-21
Today's first reading and Gospel criticize focusing attention on getting rich.
Some of us might feel that this topic has little relevance. A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that 40% of American households would not be able to come up with $400 to deal with an emergency financial need without borrowing. The dangers of wealth accumulation would seem distant from such homes.
In the first reading, an Old Testament sage asks, “What profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” He observes that “all his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.”
Conclusion: Endless work to get rich is “vanity” -- absurd, because it doesn't bring the expected reward; it just wears a person out. But many of us might respond, “Hey, I don't toil to get rich, but just to survive.”
So, do these readings bear no message for those of us who are not rich and not getting rich? Well, consider this.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells of a farmer who reaps a tremendous harvest. Now, presumably, other farmers had a good year too, and when all that wheat arrives on the market, the price will drop. So the farmer decides to build silos to hold his grain until the price goes up -- a reasonable business decision, with a hidden problem.
The price of grain is a life-or-death matter to the very poor. If the price falls, they can eat enough. If the price rises, they will starve. Where are they in the farmer's calculations?
At the end of the story, God tells the farmer he is a fool, because he is about to die and be judged, yet he has not used his resources in a way that pleases God, that is, to help his neighbors in need.
Personally, I've never felt that God called me a fool. But I have sometimes realized that I've been a fool. As with the farmer, it has concerned my attitude toward other people. There have been people in my life whom I haven't valued as they deserved to be valued -- family, friends, others.
Like the farmer, I've been preoccupied with my own interests and have missed opportunities to love.
I thank God that he's giving me -- unlike the farmer -- some time to remedy this foolishness.
- - -
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the "Six Weeks With the Bible" series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.