Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2;2:21-23, Psalm 90:3-4.5-6.12-13.14.17, Colossians 3:1-5,9-11, Luke 12:13-21
Vanity, the ordeal of human toil
What is the purpose of life? Maybe we ask ourselves often this question, especially in front of the reality of death. We ask ourselves why we have to labor and toil and at times die even without enjoying what we worked for. We doubt why we work and acquire properties that we leave behind after death. Why we struggle for esteem only to be forgotten when we die?
If we are to die and live everything behind, why struggle? why toil? The book of Ecclesiastes tells us vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Psalm 49 even puts it even better whatever a man had gained in the world does not follow him bellow. These are all provocatively inquisitive scenarios the spark off reflections on the meaning and purpose of our life. The answer to all this is found in the second reading that invites us to focus on the things of heaven. Heavenly things endure and persist forever, earthly things pass away. There is an eternal treasure in focusing our attention on the things of heaven. Earthly thing provides temporal pleasure and satisfaction, but the heavenly ones give us eternal joy and pressure. No wonder saint Augustine said in his writings that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
However, this does not water down our call and responsibility to work. We must work for our day-to-day sustenance, for our daily bread, but our focus must be on heaven even as we work. That we apply values to our work that makes it earn for us a treasure in heaven, for example being honest, not exploiting others, paying the right wages etc. We must work but with our hearts not be tired to this world, but rather focused on heaven where the eternal treasure is. What is the gain of acquiring the entire world and losing your soul? Look for the things of heaven where Christ is (Colossians 3:1), Saint Paul exclaims. If we are worried of earthly things, our work becomes full of stress, even at night we have no peace of mind (Ecclesiastes 2:23). This reading is talking about us, this is the order of our days. Struggling stressing, only to die and leave things to those who didn’t work. The essential is invisible to the eyes, said Antoine Exupery a French writer, heaven is invisible to our eyes now but our hearts yearn for it and our attitudes must help us experience it, it is what is essential as we live on earth.
Embracing a new life, liberated in Christ
“You have been raised with Christ thus seek the things of heaven”. These words remind us of our baptism in which we died with Christ and rose with him. Baptism transformed us into children of God, we are no longer of the world, but of Christ. So, it is about the newness of life and newness also of mentality in such a way that what used to please you when you were a pagan shouldn’t be pleasing you now. That’s the meaning of the newness of life, change of attitude, change of mentality. It is not about having a Christian name only while our ways do not conform to what we are called to live. It’s a call to rise again to reclaim that image we received in baptism. It is an invitation to kill everything in us that is earthly, like sexual vices, impurity, uncontrolled passion, evil desires, greed, lies as saint Paul makes mention in the second reading. Due to the fac of baptism, we no longer have distinctions within us, not of tribe, not of race not of language, not of circumcised, uncircumcised, because we are all united by one common factor, Christ who is in everything and who is everything.
Watch, be on your guard
The enemy we are called to watch out for is evil. Evil rises within us that’s why we are to see watch so that we do not fall victims of evil. It is watching ourselves, each one to watch himself, not others. Your good behavior can provoke a change in others. So, watch yourself. See the evil in yourself, do not be quick to notice the evil in others, be quick to notice the evil in yourself. Some are good at watching evil over others and forget themselves. Mother Theresa of Calcutta used to say if you want to change the world, begin by changing yourself, then your family. Sanctify yourself first and then you will be able to sanctify others. Do not play the pharisee, seemingly clean like a white washed tomb yet full of evil in the heart. Watch your thoughts, they can easily become actions, watch your words, they can be like a sword to piece or a hand to caress. Watch also possessions, life does not consist on possessions, or having more than you need. No. it is about the disposition of the heart. Work to be rich but let not your riches make you forget others, God and heaven. Work for joy in your life here but also for your joy in heaven. The rich fool teaches us that life is not only about the body but about the soul. Just as we take care of the body, let us also be mindful of the nourishment of our souls. May the lord help us to tune our attention to what is heavenly. Amen