“Vanity of Vanities, All is Vanity”
18th Sunday Ordinary Time
August 4, 2019
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 today’s readings is the idea of inheritance. In the first reading, Qoheleth ponders how all his hard-earned money and possessions will be passed on to others who have not worked for them whatsoever. In the gospel, 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 people of the world 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 of your life, you 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 (Luke 12: 13-21) 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 would 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 investments”? Where have I placed my real security?