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A human lack

· ​Meditation ·

Luke 12:13-21

After exhorting his followers in many ways not to fear those who wish to kill them since they cannot take life awayfrom them, in answering a question Jesus urges them instead to be careful and to beware of cupidity because life does not depend on possessions.

Chiharu Shiota, “The Key in the Hand” (2015, detail)

One of the multitude says to him “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me”. Jesus replies: “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?”. Jesus did not come to enforce the rights of anyonewho has an inheritance, the only inheritance he had at heart was that which he proclaims to the meek of the earth: “Blessed are you for you shall inherit the earth” (cf. Mt 5:5).

Jesus answerssaying that he did not come to be above us but among us, giving a binding example for every authority in the little flock and shining light onthe illusion that lies behind the question: life does not depend on the goods we own. And thus he teaches us to question our desires in order to discern those that are false, which only give us the illusion that we are improving our lives.

Here Jesus reveals, for those who want to follow him, the compassion of the Gospel for both men and women disciples: the Gospel never defends any right of those who follow Jesus, and this is the condition of freedom. Indeed the whole Gospel is a reiteration, confirming and deepening the Ten Commandments that God spoke to Moses, that God’s will, for the believer, always coincides with the rights of others and not with his own. “If anyone asks you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles... and do not refuse him who would borrow from you” (cf. Mt 5:41). The Gospel confers no right upon those who follow Jesus, not even to be helped to do well; as when Martha said to Jesus “Tell her [my sister] then to help me” (Lk 10:40), and the Lord did not grant her wish. The Gospel calls us to responsibility to others and to the world, and in any case to resistance against injustice done to others, not only to ourselves. For, and this is left unsaid, Jesus’ disciple has already received everything in his words, his full share of inheritance and he lacks nothing.

Jesus urges his followers to stay away from every kind of greed, from the idolatry of possessing. Our lives do not depend on what we own; rather they depend on our relations with what we lack. Lacking, which is innate in the human condition, is not resolved by possessing, because we will always lack something essential. Moreover it is precisely the illusion of blunting the edge of this lack which drives us to possession. Shortly afterwards Jesus was tosay: “which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?” (cf. Lk 12:25), revealing that the longing to possess is a deviant longing or desire. Being unable to do what we want, we delude ourselves by compensating for this by owning possessions. But wealth does not care for us in the least, on the contrary it enslaves us to its innateneed ceaselessly to increase.

Marti Lund, “Humble Hands” (2016)

If we understand our human need, with its relatedlongings, in the wise and honest light of the words and life of Jesus, we can slacken our possessive and anxious hold on people and things, and instead of worrying about possessing and possessions – like the foolish man of the parable – concern ourselves with sharing what we have. Elsewhere Jesus says that justice means love of the poor, he asks us to sell our possessions and to give them to him. Here Jesus says something else: that human truth itself makes it pointless and harmful to busy ourselves for the sake of possessing things.

Indeed, concern for what we have beyondour needs and for preserving itwill be added to what, for this veryreason, we continue to lack. Just as for that foolish man of whom Jesus speaks to us: concern to pull down old barns and the need to build new ones does not enable himto speak today, and every day, to his soul, inviting it to rejoice. Possessing things causes us to procrastinate all the essentials of life and of communion with others, just like that poor foolish rich man whom others do not even name, because possessions and not people fill his horizon and his mirror.

The Sisters of Bose




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 28, 2020