18th Sunday Ordinary Time
July 31, 2016
Qoheleth was a man who seemed to have everything. And yet, he was not happy! In today’s first reading, he makes a profound statement about the human condition: “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity!” (Sirach 1). “For what purpose,” he asks, “do we work and labor, all the while storing up riches for someone else to enjoy after we die?” Disturbing thoughts indeed.
The common theme of this Sunday’s readings is inheritance. In the first reading, Qoheleth ponders about how all his hard-earned money and possessions will be passed on to others who have not worked for them whatsoever. Our gospel (Luke 12:13–21) also echoes this same theme: two people are arguing about an inheritance they have received. One person has apparently taken more than their share, and Jesus has been asked to intervene.
Jesus tries to help us understand that our possessions, however many they are, do not guarantee us any security. Many worldly people live in a kind of fool’s paradise: they have stored up all kind of riches (or they want to) for this life, but have paid very little attention to storing up riches for the next.
We all know the importance of saving for retirement, of working hard at our jobs, and of planning for the future. Jesus is not against any of these things as such. But so many people are afflicted with blindness about the world to come. Living in a way that is pleasing to God is like putting savings into a “spiritual IRA;” it may take a while to pay off, but it’s definitely worth the investment. On the last day, we will want to have one of these types of investments, and not only the kind that gets passed on to relatives that haven’t worked for it.
Jesus echoes the words of Qoheleth in the gospel when he points out the foolish man who does nothing but think of his possessions and money, believing that the more he has of these, the more secure his life will be. How wrong he was! His life came to a sudden end, and all his “security” ended with it. Today our Lord invites us to reflect on our preparations for the world to come. It is not as far off as we might imagine. Am I adding each day to my own “spiritual IRA?”
Where have I placed my investments? Investments in Christ are always secure.