The unholy trinity; Me, Myself and I – Monday, 29th week in ordinary time – LK 12:13-21
When you look at this text in the Bible you will notice it has a title which in the RSV reads as “the parable of the rich fool.” I think the pericope (literally ‘a cutting all around’ or ‘a section of’) has not one but two fools.
Jesus is in the middle of exhorting his disciples not to give in to apostasy but to confess him before rulers and authorities. Surely the air was filled with sadness and fear; the reality of persecution being proclaimed by Jesus himself must have sent shivers down the spine of his disciples. And then just out of nowhere emerges “someone from the crowd” demanding that Jesus intervene in a family property dispute.
This ‘someone’ certainly was out of step and perhaps out of his mind which prompted me to begin this exegesis with the declaration that there are two fools in today’s text. There seems to be a tremendous sense of insensitivity if not selfishness in the interruption of Jesus’ teaching and it is this selfishness driven by greed that prompts Jesus to not only break into a parable of another fool but rebuke this one albeit kindly with the word, ‘friend’.
If you look at the parable dispassionately you might begin to wonder, what exactly has this farmer done so wrong to be called a fool? On examining the details of the parable he has not cheated any one and seems to have worked hard in order to reap a bumper harvest. He seems to be a shrewd business man who is able to invest wisely his bumper windfall by building more barns. On the surface everything seems to be in order. Then why the harsh title of fool?
It is essential to say this ad nauseam that wealth per se is not condemned in the Bible; what comes under fire is the love for wealth and the greed that accompanies it. Poverty and hunger can never be virtues in themselves for a hungry person can never be the poster boy of God’s great kingdom. It is the love for wealth or perhaps the self-absorption of a wealthy person that finds condemnation.
The “someone” who interrupted Jesus’ teaching was self-absorbed in his greed as is the rich farmer in the parable. If you look at the text carefully you will notice this self-absorption is mentioned eleven times by the use of the words “I” and “my”. (read the text for the reality to set in)
The rich farmer is so self-absorbed that he fails to recognize both God and his neighbour. He has failed to see God’s provident hand in this bumper harvest and imagines that the fruits of his labour must be attributed to his hard work alone. There is no talk of sharing this blessing with others, just the talk of storing for oneself. He is foolish because he is rich by human standards but has failed in the eyes of God.
Many of the readers might just let their minds wander in judgment to some rich selfish person they know, believing that this parable is not theirs to ponder on. Nothing could be more foolish. The parable is not merely about the greed of this rich farmer; remember there are two fools in this pericope and both of them are foolish because they have an underlying preoccupation; they are self-absorbed. Wealth may not be our Waterloo but we most certainly have some foolish self-absorption. What’s yours?
Fr Warner D’Souza
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