Ecclesiastes 1:2; -23
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Our first reading comes to us from Ecclesiastes (classified as one of the books ofwisdom)… a book ascribed to Qoheleth, who in the text describes himself as the son of David and King of Jerusalem. Now wait a minute… isn’t it Solomon who succeeds David to the throne? Of course it is… so why the pseudonym? It’s not a name, but a title, which means “collector” or “assembler.” In this case, an collector of saying ascribed to Solomon (who didn’t actually write the book). But back to the text…
“Vanity of vanities!” is how the book (and our reading) begins, and is the major theme that runs through this work. In short, the book wants us to answer the question… we toil all day long, both physically and mentally, and to what end? In other words, the author telling us that we need to re-evaluate our priorities. The worries of this life, the work of this life, the wealth of this life, are all vanity. All these worldly troubles are in fact, only temporary. We live our life here on earth but a short time, yet it is so easy to get caught up in our daily lives that we lose sight of the bigger picture – lose sight of God.
To help us put this first reading into perspective, we look to our Gospel. Here Jesus is being asked to arbitrate a dispute about an inheritance. Rather than getting directly involved, Jesus instead asks why he should he be the judge. Then he turns to the crowd, admonishes them about greed and possessions, and proceeds to tell them a parable. Better known as the Parable of the Rich Fool (unique to the Gospel of Luke), Jesus tell the story of a man who, after a bountiful harvest, looks to build a bigger barn in order to store his wealth and have a good life for years to come. But in his merriment, God chastises the man, telling him that “…this very night your life will be demanded of you;” (tonight you are going to die)… what then of all this stored up wealth? In other words, we can spend a lifetime building a fortune here on earth, but we are still “…not rich in what matters to God.”
This story, and it’s associated parable, are very challenging. Challenging to our cultural norms, and challenging to our desire for a quick answer. There is a lot to unpack from this gospel, too much, in fact, to go into here… so let’s look at just a couple key points. First, as our RCIA teaching guide suggests, is reflected in the 10th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbors goods. Our daily lives are bombarded by advertising that would suggest our lives would be better if we only had [fill in the blank]. We must always be aware of that line that separates “need” from “desire.” Fulfilling one’s physical needs and the needs of one’s family is one thing, but to be desirous and covetous of physical possessions will not lead us to salvation. I think we can also find a lesson of this Gospel reflected in our second reading. In our continuing journey through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul reminds us we need to “seek what is above.” He says “put to death the parts of you that are earthy.” Vanity of vanities! Never lose sight of the fact that our time on this earth is all to brief… don’t squander it on things that, in the end, can’t bring us to Heaven.