One thing that the Scriptures do not shy away from presenting is tragedy. We like tragedy when it is on the screen or in a play but not so much in our lives. This is partly why we invest in IRA’s. Yet, tragedy is a part of life (Sacred Scripture knows this) and no one gets through this life without experiencing tragedy in one form or another.
Here is an interesting fact. The word “tragedy” is rooted in two Greek words which mean “goat song”. The thought is that the word comes out of ancient Greek drama where the chorus was dressed like satyrs, who in Greek mythology were goat-like woodland deities. A tragedy is a goat song.
Our Lord makes use of tragedy throughout his parables and teachings and today’s gospel is one example. The story of the rich man planning to build bigger storage bins and then be set for many years to come is both tragic and ironic. Just as the man is planning and dreaming, God knows that very night his life will be demanded of him.
There is tragedy in life. We all, in one form or another and at one time or another, will have to sing the goat song. Maturing in life and maturing in faith is coming to both recognize this and accept it. In both the recognition and acceptance of tragedy there is a hard fought maturity and wisdom gained that can never be pretended. This is why Scripture does not shy away from presenting tragedy. It is why in the first reading we hear from that great reflection on “vanity of vanities”. Tragedy has a way (unlike any other) of breaking through the illusions of life, the vanities that we all like, the vanities that keep us comfortable but stifled and that ultimately can impede us from the growth that is necessary.
Certainly part of the mystery of the cross is tragedy. It is the greatest tragedy in human history that the one man without sin publically died the death of a sinner, but God has a way of overcoming and transforming from within. The cross does not say that the Christian will never experience tragedy. That is an immature faith, yet it is preached and popular. The cross says that even in the midst of tragedy God is there for us. God can reside in tragedy because God has entered into the tragedy of the cross. Even in the tragic moments of our lives, God is there for us – willing to walk beside us and give us his grace, his strength, his love and his consolation and hope.
At the end of the parable God says, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” God’s use of the term “fool” is not necessarily a condemnation of the man himself. How often do friends say to one another, “Don’t be a fool!”? Love allows for the freedom to point out foolishness. The foolishness of the man’s plans and attitude is what is subject to condemnation by God. How often are we, through our assumptions and attitudes, fools before God, but God still loves us.
“Thus it will be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” In this context what does it mean to be “rich in what matters to God”? Here it is the awareness and the faith needed to know that, yes, there will be tragedy in life yet even in the midst of tragedy, God is God for us. We will each have to sing the goat song at some point but God – in his love and his willingness to embrace the tragedy of the cross – can even make of that something beautiful and graced.
If God is for us, who can possibly be against us?