‘Fool! This Night your Soul is Required of You; and the Things you have Prepared, whose will they Be?’19 November 2019
The Lord’s parable once again reveals the state of a soul that has abandoned itself to acquisitiveness. The year has brought an exceptional harvest, too large to be stored in the rich man’s existing buildings. He therefore decides to demolish them and build new ones big enough to take the bounty. The obstacle to this plan is his sudden death.
This parable is a harsh lesson for those who prefer to put their trust in in material goods, in the transitory and perishable goods of this world. In telling it, Christ isn’t speaking against wealth and material goods in themselves. In any case, He Himself is the Creator of all things. What He brings to our attention and pours scorn on is the foolishness of people who are so attached to amassing wealth and material goods. In this instance, the man was planning how best to store his great harvest when he hears the voice of God: ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
What Christ describes to us in the parable is nothing other than the thoughts of the rich man concerning his future. Imagine how much he must have wracked his brains with these thoughts and, at the same time, how great his anxiety must have been about bringing the harvest safely home from the fields.
The rich man in the parable is a classic case of person who hoped not in God but in his wealth. Both God and other people were absent from his life. He’d reached the point where he believed that the material goods he’d gathered would last for ever and that no-one could deprive him of them. So he was able to plan for his future happiness. This happiness would be founded on transitory things, since nothing’s certain about anything this world gives us.
Saint Clement the Alexandrian reveals who is truly rich: ‘Wealthy people aren’t those who have, but those who pass on to others. What makes people blessed isn’t the acquisition of material goods, but their distribution’. So the blessed are those who find fulfilment in helping and giving to others, motivated by feelings of love and true philanthropy.
The rich man is reminded of this life after death by God Himself, when He says: ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ God calls life after death to his mind in order to wake him up. To bring him to an awareness of his condition. To get him to understand that he can’t live alone, without any concern for other people. Whatever we have in life is a gift from God. As such, let’s accept it as a gift from Him. Salvation and spiritual progress can’t be guaranteed in artificial environments where conditions seem to be perfect, but in fact are unnatural.
Christ closes the parable with the question: ‘And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ in order to teach us the certainty of death. Because when we forget death, we enter into its reality more quickly. It is so true that human affairs are hollow. No matter how much wealth people accumulate, however many storehouses they build, all that’s certain is that, at some moment, they’ll taste death. When death, this unwelcome visitor, arrives, no material good can postpone the transition to the next life. Everything will be forgotten. The value of the worldly goods and chattels we’re forever trying to store up is as naught, nothing, in the face of the specter of death and the dawning of eternity. The sole truth that will then shine is the well-known saying of wise Ecclesiastes: ‘vanity of vanity, all is vanity’. Let’s make the remembrance of death the daily nourishment of our soul, so that the devil can’t make fools of us and one night or one day, like the rich man in the parable, we don’t find ourselves facing death unprepared and without a ‘wedding garment’.