Today’s reading put me in a moral tizzy… My wife and I retired almost three years ago. When reflecting on today’s Gospel, I immediately began an Ignatian Examen on how we prepared for our new adventure. Given Jesus’ parable, the key focus question became: were we the “rich fool?” After several painfully honest conversations with God, I was relieved to conclude that our motivations were not those of the rich fool.
We did not greedily hoard resources. We were not blind to the needs of others. We did not fail to draw clear boundaries between our needs and our desires. We did not forget that we are part of a wider, loving community who looks after each other today and will do so in the future. In retirement, we believe we’ve accumulated adequate resources for a lifestyle with a dignity to which everyone has a right… and not more than that. I believe we’ve likely passed the test Jesus gave his inquisitor.
That test was the easier one. It mostly required passive action…not doing obviously morally wrong deeds. The second, more difficult part of the trial comes at the end of the Gospel passage. Jesus says, “Thus it will be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” The real question, therefore, is, “What exactly matters to God?” Luke answered that question earlier by proclaiming God’s greatest commandment. Loving our wondrous God with every fiber of our being by loving our neighbor is that answer.
Love is proactive, not passive. Loving our neighbor requires us to be co-creators with God. It means completely embracing the truth that we are one human family; that when one suffers everyone suffers; that social structures guided by racism, sexism, and all the other -isms are sinful and must be made right with justice; that feeling uncomfortable by learning about historic failures like institutional racism and benefitting from those social sins is a critical part of reconciling social sins; that creation is a gift meant to be nurtured, respected, and not exploited.
In short, building God’s vision for us, guided by the Greatest Commandment, is what matters most to God.
Tom has over 43 years of experience doing social justice ministry organizing at the parish, diocesan, and national levels. He has authored two books, Parish Social Ministry: Strategies for Action (2001) and its sequel, On Earth As It Is In Heaven (2021). Currently, Tom is semi-retired and working as a parish social justice ministry trainer/consultant.