(May 21)

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man (Ἅνθρωπε), who set me to be a judge or partitioner/divider (μεριστὴν) over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed (ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας); for one’s life (ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ) does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Lk 12: 13-15)

Our “possessions,” or that which we’ve acquired as a result of our position and/or work in this world, – be this money, or a certain social or professional standing, – may sometimes drive a wedge between us and those closest to us. It can also fragment us personally, within ourselves, leading us to do or say undignified things. But the Lord reminds us, in this passage, that our true “life” (“zoe,” as distinct from our “bios,” our biological existence) does not consist in the abundance of our “possessions” or conquests, in our broader world. It is in the relationships with those closest to us, whom we love, and by whom we are loved, regardless of our “possessions,” that our true life consists, even if we do not always “like” one another, and tend to argue, as family-members sometimes do. So, the Lord refuses to be a “partitioner” between us, in relationships that we have the responsibility to “mediate” by the “mediator” we have already been given by God, which is love. It is love that is to “guard against all kinds of greed,” which can lead us to lose both a healthy self-love and the capacity to love others.

I realize this is not always simple, especially when love has been broken, as in messy divorces; when we love and are not loved back; when we have financial responsibility not just for ourselves, etc. But I think the principle remains, as we responsibly move forward, that we must not lose focus on true life, which makes us who we are, and “does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” I’m inspired in this context by St. Helena, celebrated today (NC) together with her only son, Constantine. (Pictured here is a statue of her in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.) The love of her life and Constantine’s father, Constantius, divorced her when Constantius was appointed Caesar, in order to marry Maximian’s daughter, a woman more appropriate to his rising status (as Helena came from the lower classes). Helena and her little son, Constantine, were sent away and she never remarried, but remained close to her only child, who also had a deep affection for her.

Let me set my priorities straight today, when I have a conflict with my closest people, in matters that threaten my possessions. If I have lost focus, let me try to take pause and take a step back, that I may maintain something far more life-giving and life-sustaining, than my “possessions,” which is the love I have not acquired, but am given. I might need to embrace “right being,“ rather than “being right,“ that I may maintain the “life“ I already have, in the irrational reality of love. And St. Helena, Equal-to-the-Apostles, pray to God for us today!