Sunday August 4th 2019 18th Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings: Meaningful living
Psalm 90:3-5; 12-17, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Sounds like a sound bite on an HGTV bathroom show, but no, it’s the lead off to the most depressing book of the Bible: Ecclesiastics (Ecc 1:2). In our reading in chapter 2 for example, our “what’s the use king”, Solomon bemoans the fact that you can’t take it with you. In the end you die and the fruits of your labor go to someone else. Chapter after chapter, the book drones on in existential fashion as it expounds the useless futility of living. But hold on! Our Prozac monarch doesn’t off himself in a final exclamation point. He discovers four principles to make life worth living or at least bearable, which I will share at the end of this essay. So put the top back on that bottle of pills and turn off the gas! There’s a real light at the end of the tunnel and His name is Jesus.
The problem presented in our readings today is how to live our short lives knowing that troubles are common and death can surprise us at anytime. Psalm 90 recognizes the brevity of life and asks God to give a proper perspective to live it. The Psalmist asks to have the joy of the Lord in the sorrows, that He will let faith will pass on to the next generation, and for a secure future for all. The key here is that he goes to the Lord to make sense of our short time here on earth. We truly live when we value a relationship with God. He offers us His security, sufficiency, and satisfaction. The alternative is going our own way on an aimless voyage, floating on a senseless sea, without a compass. Seek God first. He will be that friend that sticks closer than a brother. Be rich toward Him and he will make you a treasure to others. That’s a life worth living.
The characters in Luke 12:13-21, like most people, ignore death and focus on temporal things. In verses 13-15, we have two brothers squabbling over the family inheritance. Did you catch that? Inheritance! At least one person has recently passed with apparently little impact on the short sighted siblings who value possessions over each other. Jesus leverages this into a teaching moment with the parable of the Rich Fool. We wish we had this guy’s problem. He has to figure out what to do with the windfall that has dropped into his lap. Not to worry, he quickly comes up with the solution and a retirement plan to boot. Then he suddenly dies and someone else gets the loot, probably the aforementioned quarrelling brothers. The neighbors gather at his funeral and say, “What a shame, just when he was starting to live.” From the Almighty’s point of view, he never lived a day in his life. Instead of being focused toward God, he was self centered. He loved his life in this world and so lost it for eternity. Jesus said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”(Matt 6:20). He didn’t. “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it “(Matt 16:25). Failed there too! Who or what has the hold on your life?
So what’s the secret of living in this world? Live your life with eternity in mind. Die now and move on ahead! In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” In Ephesians 2:6 we read: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” So we have died in Christ by faith and are in heaven with Jesus…but not yet. Live down here like you’re there already.
We’ll tie Solomon’s principles for living in Ecclesiastes along with today’s reading in Colossians 3:1-11 to get a better handle on what the wisest man who ever lived has to say.
Principle #1 Life is a school; learn your lessons. Therefore if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth (Col 3:1-2).
Principle #2 Life is a gift; enjoy it. Life in Christ is the Father’s gift to us and there is glory to come. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with Him in glory (Col 3:3-4).
Principle #3 Life is a stewardship; God will demand an accounting. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also put them aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices (Col 3:5-9).
Principle #4 Life is an adventure; live by faith. Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which Christ is all and in all (Col 3:10-11).
The Lord God Almighty knows your situation. He knows that you are born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). Here on earth you will have many trials and tragedies (John 16:33). But happiness does not come from a lack of difficulties, but in the triumph over them and you don’t have to go it alone. Hear what Jesus Christ, the man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) has to say. “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulations. But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). So take heart! Take Jesus, the light at the end of your tunnel, and your hope for years to come! Remember this too…life is good if you let it be!