HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C.
THEME: IS LIFE VANITY?
BY: Fr A. N. Abiagom, CM.
HOMILYFOR SUNDAY JULY 31 2022.
Readings: Ecc 1:2, 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21.
1. The words of Qohelet: “vanity of vanities … all is vanity” (habel habālim … hakol habel – Ecc 1:2) does not really mean that earthly existence and human endeavours therein is useless. God did not create the universe and the human to whom he gave dominion over the universe on the basis of vanity. What then does the expression mean in the Biblical context?
2. The word vanity is from the Hebrew word “Hebel” which has a “transitory” connotation. It literally means “what is empty” (Ecc 6:12; Jb 35:16; 27:12). In Ecc1:2 it could imply the notion of “nothingness” or “perishableness” Also, the idea of “breath” (Isa 57:13) considering its temporal nature in man, relates to it.
3. Qohelet means a preacher, a teacher or a simply a “collector of sayings”. Ecc 1:1 begins with the sentence: “The words of Qohelet, son of David, king in Jerusalem”. Given that David had a son who was king in Jerusalem, and on the ground that this son of David who became king after him was a “Wiseman” who reflected, searched and formulated proverbs (Ecc 12:9). Solomon has been construed by several scholars to be the Qohelet. Thus, his statement on vanity requires a deeper reflection to grasp its meaning.
4. The parable of the rich fool in the gospel reading brings out the meaning of “vanity” (hebel) in light of the first reading. The rich man did not provoke the anger of God towards himself by his hard work which yielded abundant produce, but by his trust in his possession rather than in God. God required his soul from him for his misplaced priority. When we die, that which we pursued and for which we abandoned God and mistreated our neighbours will be useless to us. This is the vanity that the first reading is talking about.
5. In order to avoid this vanity, St. Paul in the Second reading from Col, calls us to set our hearts on things above as people of the resurrection. We can do this by putting to death the things of the flesh in relation to sin which brings about vanity.
6. Dear friends, it is not a sin to work hard, make use of our intelligence to acquire genuine riches or make good progress in diverse ramifications of human endeavors and undertakings.
Nevertheless in all these, we should not forget to be loyal and submissive to God, and to love our neighbours and serve them with that which God has blessed us.
Knowing the shortness of life (Psa 90:12) would enable us live in the consciousness love.
Life is not vanity. Life is God’s gift. Life becomes vanity when we pursue the gifts of life and forget the giver of the gifts and maltreat our neighbours. May the Lord help us to live right.