Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21
“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Ecc. 1:2) Not a very encouraging introduction to a Sunday homily, is it? No matter how much we have, we always want more. Then once we get it, we want something else; and the cycle goes on and on. We exhaust ourselves grasping for things that we neither need nor want. All earthly pursuits are like chasing after the wind and will end in vanity. The Psalmist was right when he wrote: “Only in God does my soul find its rest… he is my rock and my salvation” (Ps. 62:1, 2). With this verse in mind, the Word Incarnate calls out to each of us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28).
With two short phrases, Qoheleth blows the “comfortable” right out of our dreamy, rose-colored illusions about life. We have grown accustomed to thinking that we can make and have anything our hearts desire. Before hearing this morning’s first reading, we may have been unwilling to let that idea go because we have inadvertently become slaves to the world. No matter how hard we exert ourselves; no matter how much we sweat and toil, the earth gives us nothing but a hole in which to bury our lifeless bodies. The love and care of God are the only true rest for our souls. Those who cast their cares upon the Lord come to know that they are the objects of God’s love. Only by seeking a resting place close to the heart of Christ can we escape the vanity of the world.
Because heaven and earth are completely contrary to one another, they cannot be pursued with equal intensity. The desire for the one will weaken our desire for the other. The Lord himself reminded us: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mat. 6:21). If our resting place is close to the heart of Christ, He will live in us and we will live our lives abundantly. God’s desire for each of us is that we be His beloved children and that we inherit the kingdom purchased by the blood of His Only-begotten Son.
St Paul exhorts us to conform ourselves to the person of Christ. The kingdom of God is not of this world even though it exists in this world. Because we were made for the kingdom of heaven, the things of the world cannot satisfy the deepest desires of the soul. Saint Augustine put it quite clearly: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” It is vanity to mind and pursue that which is for the body and for time only, more than that for the soul and for eternity. At the beginning of the parable of the rich farmer Jesus made a comment that applies to us: “Though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (Lk. 12:15). We may not be rich farmers, but we have been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Because everything we have has been given to us as a gift, we need to share it freely with others. We are called to pour ourselves out for others in imitation of Christ.
The author of the book of Ecclesiastes is advising us to direct our attention away
from worldly riches and seek the riches that will last. In the Eucharist, we are reminded that the flesh we eat is broken for others and the blood we drink is poured out for the life of the world. We are called to focus our attention on heavenly realities more than on earthly shadows. We cannot remain content with the status quo, especially when that status quo is less than what God wants for us as individuals and as a community. We call ourselves Christ’s disciples if we do not come to the aid of the marginalized and the vulnerable. “In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.”(John O’Donohue)
God alone is the author of life and death, and this is something our ancestors understood. They understood their total dependence on God and they trusted in His mercy. Our own response to the call of love allows God’s life to flow into and through us. Everything we possess is a gift of God. God lavishes His blessings upon us so that we might live and move and have our being in him. Mindful that God sees and makes note of all that we do, we should use all God’s gifts in such a way as to love others as he has loved us. We achieve the works of God when we make our resting place close to the heart of Christ who loved us so much that He stretched His arms out on the cross and gave Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation. To achieve the works of God is to enter into communion with Him whose life we share each time we receive the Eucharist. To achieve the works of God is to become Christ who is the Bread of Life. The purpose of prayer is to surrender to the movements of the Spirit. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche wrote: “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”
Music Masters by Rumi
Watch the dust grains moving
in the light near the window.
Their dance is our dance.
We rarely hear the inward music,
but we’re all dancing to it nevertheless,
directed by the one who teaches us,
the pure joy of the sun,
our music master.
Jesus, Master of the Dance, silence my heart right now. Give me the willingness and the ability to hear through the noise of the distractions that dominate my life. Let me hear the music of Your Spirit again,calling me into grace, peace, freedom, rest, and trust. Show me how to dance again, Lord. Amen.