July 31, 2010

Homily for 18th Sunday in ordinary time

Fr. Rene Butler

Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! This passage from Qoheleth (or Ecclesiastes) makes me think of the song made famous by Peggy Lee (pictured), “Is That All There is?”

The lyrics express constant disappointment in life: Is that all there is to a fire?... to a circus?... to love? In that case, “let’s keep dancing, bring out the booze and have a ball.”

But there is a big difference between Qoheleth and the song. The latter is purely pessimistic, the former is not. In fact, in Qoheleth we read many beautiful and comforting passages:

“I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.”

“For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.”

“It is well for a man to eat and drink and enjoy all the fruits of his labor under the sun during the limited days of the life which God gives him; for this is his lot.”

“Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of the fleeting life that is granted you under the sun. This is your lot in life.”

The rich man with the bountiful harvest, in the parable, seems to say the same thing as Qoheleth: “eat, drink, be merry.” But here too there is a big difference. Qoheleth sees the good in his life as a blessing from God. The rich man sees only his wealth and prosperity, without any thought of “what matters to God.”

Imagine a child (or yourself) blowing bubbles and ask yourself which element of each of the following pairs is most like them:

Life, or status?

People, or things?

Love, or being right?

Sharing, or winning?

Health, or wealth?

The list goes on and on. We need to ask ourselves what really matters to God and to us, and what are the bubbles, the “vanity,” in our lives.

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