It is generally easy to be generous with people we love. In fact, since generosity is not strictly speaking an obligation it would only make sense that we reserve our generosity for certain people and certain circumstances. When Ahab comes asking Naboth for his vineyard, pretty much none of the requisite conditions for generosity are met: King Ahab is not poor and does not need the vineyard, there is no friendship between him and Naboth, and Ahab has blatant disregard for the divine significance of ancestral heritage. Indeed, it is for that last reason that Naboth refuses to give up his land to the king. It is Naboth’s piece of the land promised by God to Israel. Naboth has a strong sense of satisfaction with what the Lord has provided him, he needs nothing further. The soil of Naboth’s vineyard nourished vines that produced delicious grapes because Naboth treated it as a special gift from God passed on to him from his ancestors. Ahab wanted the soil and disregarded what God’s intended purpose was for that soil. Ahab forgot that it is God who gives the growth and causes fruit to ripen for the harvest.
Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus showed us the dangers of riches and the difficulty involved in not becoming attached to wealth. Today’s Gospel further cautions us against inventing an easy temporal explanation for how things will be. For Peter and the Apostles who “gave up everything to follow Christ,” Christ tells them that they will receive even more back already in this life. How absurdly paradoxical! Giving up everything then receiving one hundredfold back. Jesus doesn’t say, “become poor so that you can remain poor.” It isn’t that simple. Nor does He say, “Give up your material possessions and wealth so that you will have a spiritual one instead.” Here Jesus says, “Whoever gives up possessions in this life will receive one hundredfold in this life and eternal life in the next.” You almost want to call the rich young man back and tell him, “Hey! If you give it all up you will receive it all back one hundredfold!” Since the point is not about whether or not we have wealth (though having it is more difficult than not) it is better for those who have given all to follow Christ to learn how to use wealth well when it returns a hundredfold. This is what stewardship is all about: we must begin to see everything we have, all our resources and relationships, as gifts from God to be used according to His good will and pleasure as opposed to our own selfish desires.
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
The rich young man somehow knows enough to call Jesus good, but something is lacking in his discernment. The rich young man wants to live out his human life in comfort, following the rules (basically) so that the comfort can continue in eternal life. He is asking Jesus for a confirmation that he is already on the right path. He isn’t actually looking for guidance, he is completely self-assured. Jesus first corrects him on his perception of goodness. The rich young man has a very mundane, human, and horizontal perspective on life. Jesus is not simply another human teacher, He is God. When the rich young man says, “good master,” what he is really saying is, “I’m good, and you’re good just like me.” Jesus tells him that no one is good but God alone. This criteria for goodness is a bit upsetting: it means that no one is “a good person,” but we say and think that all the time. Our petty little human goodness is rot compared to the rich goodness of God.