Reflection for the 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 9-22-22, Year C
Readings: Eccl 1:2-11; Ps 90:3-6, 12-14, 17bc; Gospel Lk 9:7-9
Theme: Building a Treasure in Heaven
“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” Almost everyone has heard this quote from the book of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth). In the Hellenist (Greek) meaning of “vanity.” it is literally a breath or vapor. It can also mean something that is transient, worthless, and empty. “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” is basically saying that the things we do as humans on this earth are like a breath or vapor, it is here one moment and gone the next. Or, that all we do and say is transient, worthless and empty of any meaning or lastingness.
Ecclesiastes describes human life in this world as moving without any direction or toward any purpose, and that it goes about in an endless tragic and comic repetition.1 In some ways there is an element of reality in what Ecclesiastes says and in the end it would be true, except, we have God to thank for keeping “vanity of vanities” a reality for humanity.
The proof of God sparing us the “All things are vanity” in our lives, is brought to life in the Gospel of Luke today. Christ came into our world to prove Qoheleth wrong in his vision of humanity and the vanity he sees within it. Christ coming among us stirred our imagination to begin to think that maybe there is more to the vain things we do in life every day and that there can be a purpose in what we do. During Jesus’s ministry, people were trying to figure out who exactly He was and what His purpose meant for them. Even Herod, who was king and controlled everything in his realm, wondered who Jesus was and why he was in his kingdom doing things Herod could not. Jesus brought purpose to our lives and a focus that reflects on a lasting future not of this earth.
Without God to provide a life beyond our human one, Ecclesiastes may very well be right, and in fact, in the end, Ecclesiastes is right when we view our human life in the light of God. In other words, nothing else matters or is more important than God Himself. All else pales in comparison. Ecclesiastes alluded to this in his final two verses in his epilogue where he says, “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgement every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.” (Eccl. Epilogue: 13-14).
We can learn a lesson from Ecclesiastes and Herod. Putting too much time and effort in the things of this world will gain us nothing in the end without God’s direction and focus in our lives. Do not be too concerned with things of this earth and build your treasure in heaven because a treasure on earth is transient and empty, vanishing like vapor into thin air, never to be seen or remembered again.