From gospel to gospel

This coming weekend is the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Lectionary Year C. Last weekend our gospel was the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). You might have noticed that the gospel then jumps ahead to Luke 12:58. What about the passage in between (vv.22-34)? It is not used for a Sunday gospel – yet it carries an important context for our passage and serves as a bridge between the lesson of the rich fool and our text which seems to speak of the second coming of the Son of Man and the judgment that awaits.

Let’s spend a moment on the by-passed verses:

22 He said to (his) disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24 Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! 25 Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? 26 If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. 28 If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 29 As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30 All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. 32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. 34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  (Luke 12:22-34)

The opening line of the 19th Sunday gospel is “Gird your loins and light your lamps” (v.35) which seems as though it comes out of nowhere. The “missing” text provides the motivation and context for the opening line: get ready because you are and will be well provided for.  These verses (vv.22-34) address our motivation by pointing to the care of a loving Father.  If one to give a short summary of the verses, it might appear as such:

  • Life is more than food, lifestyle, and possessions – all these things are provided for by God.
  • Want proof?  God provides these things for the ravens (a traditional “unclean” animal) and if God does that for the “unclean” then how much more do you think God will do for you?
  • So don’t’ be anxious
  • While you may want those things – look and learn what the Father wants to give you.  He wants to give the kingdom!! (v.31)
  • Make room in your life to receive the kingdom with open hands and arms – give your “stuff” to the poor (give “alms”) and be merciful.

What God requires of us is to give alms, in other words to give to the poor. The word translated “alms” is eleemosyne, which comes from a word meaning “mercy.”  At the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus said “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” This message is echoed in the command “Sell your belongings and give alms” (v.33)

The wise and the foolish virgin, Painted by Jan Adam Kruseman (1804-1862), CC: Public Domain, Credit: Museum Jan Cunen

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