What — and who — is our focus?
By Sharon Priester
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/July 31
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
The readings for this week, the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, begin with a passage from Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth. Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” The expression, “vanity of vanities” is described in the footnote in The Catholic Study Bible “as a Hebrew superlative expressing the supreme degree of futility and emptiness.”
It is definitely an expression of frustration and hopelessness of a person who labored and “must leave his property” (Ecclesiastes 2:21) to one who has not labored at all. Even at the end of the day, it seems he cannot rest because of his frustration of having to share his possessions. What is he to do?
Are our possessions the most important thing in our life? Have our possessions taken over our life and away from our call to love God with our whole heart, whole mind and whole soul and to love others?
In the Gospel from Luke, a person asks Jesus to tell his brother “to share the inheritance” with him. Jesus warns the young man to “guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) To drive home the point, Jesus uses a parable about a rich man who had an abundant harvest but not enough storage space.
The rich man comes up with a plan for building a bigger storage area so that he can sit back and enjoy his wealth. Sounds like a great plan. But God warns him that night he will lose his life and asks who will own the rich man’s possessions that have been stored away? This is the way it will be for those “who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12:21)
WHAT MATTERS MOST?
We all have opportunities to stash away our possessions. Maybe it is a collection of teapots that has been passed on to us. Or you may like to read like my husband and I do and have an abundance of books. Are our collections getting bigger and bigger? Are we greedy and not willing to share what we have? Are our possessions the most important thing in our life? Have our possessions taken over our life and away from our call to love God with our whole heart, whole mind and whole soul and to love others?
Paul called those around him, the community and us, “to think of what is above” rather than “what is here on earth” (Colossians 3:2), our possessions. What is our focus? Are we ready to put to death those things that make us “earthly,” such as “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry”? (Colossians 3:5) It is time to get rid of the old self and put on a new self — one focused on being with Christ.
Doing God’s will is what matters and brings happiness, and God reveals His will in many ways. How much does God matter to us? How rich are we, really?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (45) gives us this to consider: “Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness: ‘When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.’” (St. Augustine, “Confessions” 10, 28,39, PL 32, 795).
SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.