(August 4, 2019 Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Greetings to you, my dear friends in Christ. Gee, I return from my studies out west, I just start getting back into the groove here in our parishes, and I’m greeted with this … well … rather depressing sounding first reading this weekend. Actually, there are a few possible responses to Quoheleth’s teaching:
One response, of course, is the classic: “Well, if tomorrow we die, and it’s all vanity anyway, then today let’s eat, drink, and be merry!” [Incidentally, I’ve heard that some folks have difficulty walking and chewing bubble gum at the same time; I however, can eat, drink, and be merry all simultaneously!] We Catholics certainly love our food, drink, and merriment; yet our attitude is not one of avoiding the deeper truths and mysteries of life by gorging ourselves on fine food and drink and distracting ourselves with flashing lights and blowing whistles. So what else might we choose?
Another classic response is the rather pessimistic one of eastern-style stoicism (i.e. lowering our expectations of life to the point where nothing could possibly disappoint us) or modern skepticism (believing nothing and hoping nothing, so that we won’t be made to look like fools if there turns out to be nothing). But if life is nothing – if All things are vanity, then what’s the point? and why did Jesus come?
I came so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete, Jesus says. Could both Quoheleth and Jesus be right? Is there a third way? The Catholic answer to both questions is a resounding YES, and the Catholic way involves recognizing that nothing in this world ultimately satisfies, and that there is nothing new under the sun, and that all the things that we do/possess/make will all fade away into nothing; BUT that we can be rich in what matters to God, and that When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory, and that in Jesus Christ, who is all in all, we have put on the new self. Yes, perhaps all things are vanity, but God and the new life in love that we share through Him are not! That, my friends, is really good news. That is something to celebrate as we celebrate our oneness and the joy that we share this day and every day.
So, especially as the end of summer nears and we prepare to embark on a new year (and a new way) of catechesis, put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.
Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,