Eighteenth Sunday – Ordinary Time Cycle C
Reflecting on Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23
Of all the Old Testament writers, I think I feel sorriest for the guy who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. He has a symbolic name―Qoheleth, “ Preacher”―because his actual name and position in the 3rd century B.C. community is unknown. He’s lived a long life, tried on every one of the theologies available to him from the Scriptures, and has come to this conclusion: life’s a drag, and then you die.
My heart breaks for Qoheleth because if he had only been born just 250 years later he might have known Jesus. I’ll bet he would have been a disciple, or maybe even one of the Twelve. He was a seeker, a true lover of the Word in his youth, but as he aged he experienced that most radical challenge to Hebrew theology: bad things happen to really good people. And because he never knew Jesus he didn’t have any place to put that in his head. He had no understanding of an afterlife, no theology of meaning in suffering. Hence his conclusion: Vanity of vanities, life is just a chase against the wind.
The foolish landowner in today’s Gospel thinks to himself: I can’t take it with me, so I might as well eat, drink and be merry. But Jesus says we do take it with us ―every bin of grain that is opened up and poured out for those who are poor goes with us when we go to God. And, by the way, we have no idea when that day may come.
Sharing God’s Word at Home
What is the hardest part of your wealth for you to share?
What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
What a great question! I have no financial wealth. This is painful to me because there is such a huge need for so many and my resources are very limited. I have two family members living with me; and, a baby on the way! A bit more financial stability for them would be great; but, we work with what we have. Knowing that material wealth has never been my advantage…or disadvantage; I believe that the wealth I have accumulated over time is myself. In reality, it is all that I truly have. No matter where I go; I am always with me! Other than the clothes on my person; each day that I leave my home, and all that I own, I am all that I have. What part of “me” is hard to share is trust. I can be trusted and I know that this is one of my “assets”. It is trusting others…turning myself over to trust. We are all teachers in our lifetime…through example, through interaction, through observation, through intimacy. Sometimes our “teachers” are unkind, selfish, manipulating.
Maybe through happenstance, or poor judgment; I have had too many UNtrustworthy people in my life. I want to choose, in a more discerning manner, to open this part of my life;
share in the “wealth” of two-way trust.
Blessings to everyone…be safe this coming week. Thank you, Kathy!
As I have said before I was very active in a Denver parish many years ago, The priest who was a good friend gave me a small job there on Saturdays. He and the other staff members knew the stuggles I and my family had. I won’t drop names, but there was a certain person who would send me money about once a month, I think that I was supposed to buy a coat with it, but usually the shortage of food came about the same time this secret helper’s money arrived. I always opt to buy food, my mom was ill and on medications and food was important to help the meds work. I’m sure this secret helper wondered why won’t this girl buy herself a coat? Please don’t get me wrong I’m not that saintly, not at all. But I try to weigh out the most important issue at hand and deal with it and then go to the next. I just don’t think I could ever be happy thinking of myself when there are so many greater needs in this world. I’ve been told “you can’t save the world,” that is true enough, but God gave a small corner of it to be aware of and as a Christian when my eye are opened to a need at hand I feel there is where He wants to work through me. I don’t want to save the world that’s for Jesus, I just want to pick up whatever cross is mine and may be carry someone elses for a short distance. So to all those secret helper in my live that carried my cross for a few feet I may not of said thank you enough but I want you to know that you did warm me with your care and support.
I was in San Francisco two weeks ago, we went with another couple, as we were walking down fishersman wharf, there was an older man asking for money, so I took 10.00 dollars and gave it to him. the couple that we’re with us, ask me why did you give him some money? he is just going to buy liquor, my response was, it didn’t matter what he bought with it.I thought to myself, it takes somebody asking for money some humility. and besides, I don’t need anything, the good Lord has given me everything I have including the 10.00 dollars I gave to beggar.
Last Friday, we spent about 7 hours at the homeless shelter cleaning the chicken, cooking, serving, etc. After we’re done and were about to leave, we saw in the parking lot this awesome Tesla sports car, a totally electric car that goes 200 miles to one charge. When the owner came out, we were surprised to see it was one of the volunteers. None of us imagined the “Vanity of vanities” condemnation applying to her because this young woman has been one of the most reliable servants of this outreach ministry.
I thought to myself: perhaps the Qoheleth warning applies to the infection caused by material goods on people’s relationship and not on the goods themselves? – – Cris
What beautiful, insightful and RICH input from all of you on this tricky question of wealth, what to do with it when you’ve got it, when you don’t have it, and when it is given to you from someone else’s overflowing bin. The diversity and wisdom of this circle is just exactly what I had hoped for when dreaming of this site.
I asked Michael to post a reflection that he gave at his family reunion on Sunday. It’s longer than the usual postings, but, like all of your writings, so, so beautiful.
Peace and richest blessings,
I enjoyed your reflection and Qoheleth may well have had _more_ to say had he known Jesus. But, we should not forget either that Qoheleth was right! That most of our toil and anxiety of heart is vanity. We get too wrapped up in our daily lives of worldly concerns. Jesus taught us not to worry. But it’s not easy. He is my only hope of staying the on the path.
It is so inspiring to read these comments!
I don’t think of myself as a person who spends money on frivolous things, or lots of money on anything. But whenever I’ve moved and have been forced to look at the amount of accumulated stuff, it’s amazing to see the things I thought were important or essential. It’s a humbling experience.
Thinking about Kathy’s question, it occurred to me that the wealth I don’t think about is the time, the number of days, of minutes, given to me. I’m not sure how wisely I spend that either.
Kathy, thank you for this wonderful site.
What a great question, it made me think about many things!
Thank you all for your insights, I was so touched!
My material possessions are not many. My wealth is my faith and my family.
How do I share my faith? This was hard for me because I am not a great speaker or a teacher by profession. I have been blessed by having had wonderful teachers!
Sometimes I find myself speaking from my heart and life experiences and the Holy Spirit blesses me and I forget about everything else.
Sometimes God uses us when we least expect it, in ways we could have never imagined.
God Bless you all!
At Kathy’s request, I’m sharing the post-Communion reflection I wrote for my family’s reunion this weekend. I have been inspired by the example of the community of contributors on this site who write so beautifully of your own experiences connecting the Story to your daily lives.
It’s no accident that today’s readings are concerned with the question of inheritance, prosperity, and even a little sibling controversy.
I love how in Luke’s gospel, Jesus often answers direct questions by telling a story. But the parables are tricky, mostly because they’re so familiar to us. The whole point of a parable is that our expectations should be overthrown when we get to the end of the story. Parables are supposed to challenge our assumptions and make us think in a different way, opening our hearts to new understanding.
Today’s parable is framed in a question about a disputed inheritance. We don’t know any of the background about this brother’s claim, and we aren’t told the outcome. Instead, we hear a story about a man who gets an unexpected windfall and makes some pretty reasonable plans to store it for his future enjoyment. The surprise, of course is that he doesn’t HAVE a future. And in that unexpected ending, Jesus directs our attention to the definition of true treasure: “rich in what matters to God.”
We gather today from across the city and across the country because two people came together more than a hundred years ago, two people truly rich in what matters to God: love, generosity, faithfulness, hospitality, patience, and forgiveness. Mama and Daddy Lopez created a home where those virtues lived. So our story began not with an ambitious plan for wealth and prosperity, but with a promise to be faithful to each other and to welcome children joyfully as blessings from God. It began with a hope for OUR future. WE are their legacy; we are the rich harvest they hoped and worked for.
I doubt they could have imagined that from their little green house in the Valley would grow this thriving dynasty, but I hope they would be proud of us, and I am certain they are happy to see us together today.
Being a family is not always easy. Patience and forgiveness are not easy. But the gifts are real. The bonds that join us are deep and lasting.
So we take time this weekend to remember, to re-tell the stories that anchor us to our past and to each other. To cry a little in remembrance of all the precious ones we have lost through the years, but to laugh a LOT as only we can do. To create new stories together and to share in the hope for all our future generations.
To be rich in what matters to God. To be a family.
Thanks, Michael Carlos, for your reflection. Parts of it gave me goose bumps. I think it’s important, especially for those of us who come from dysfunctional families, to remember that we are all members of God’s family. It is impossible to change our past, but we are responsible for making the future better. Those from whom we come may not have faith, but faith is a grace from God offered to everyone. I am grateful that God touched my life early on and invited me to His family. I don’t know how I would have faced the challenges of my life without His grace.
How very BLESSED we have been this week with everyone’s sharing. All week I have found something that just brings me back to this site and read the different ways we are touched by what (or may be the Way) that Jesus speaks to us in this reading. Thank You Everyone for blessing me.
It’s taken me a week to think about this question. Just what part of my wealth am I willing to share, to give up? I slowly make my way around the house and box up things for charity. I haven’t used this glass fruit bowl in years. I don’t need this set of sheets that doesn’t really fit the bed right. I could give away this plant hanger that I bought a long time ago and is still in its original package. Why did I buy it in the first place?
I stare at all the books I’ve purchased. I’m not yet ready to part with them though I haven’t dusted them in a while. Then there are the pieces of tissue paper that I think I will use to wrap up some of the fragile things I’m going to give to charity. I look at the bag and think what clutter, but if I toss them I will need them. What a dilemma! Of course, this time of year, there are always such great sales on those big plastic storage bins. Throughout the years, every time I’ve bought one to transfer “my treasures” from paper boxes into plastic, I rationalize with how much cleaner the “stuff” will be, how plastic is less likely to be invaded by a mouse family or even how it will reduce the possibility of fire. And then the gospel asks me if I really need the bin because tomorrow…. Why is it that I just don’t part with the “stuff?”
And then there’s the fact that I’m currently unemployed and because of previously working at a church, cannot collect unemployment. Whoever thought of that rule? So, I pinch pennies. A high school football player comes to my door and asks, “Will you support our team by purchasing a discount card?” How do I say no? What will I have to give up by saying yes? And yet, generosity needs to win sometimes, like the widow and her two pennies. Meanwhile, some very gracious individuals connect with me and invite me to lunch. I let them be generous and give up my pride. I recognize I have a wealth of pride that could certainly be “sacrificed.” Working on my resume and tweaking it over and over, I find that I have a wealth of knowledge, skills and abilities. So in the midst of looking for a paid job, I share my wealth by volunteering at a hospital. If time is money, then I am putting my wealth out into the universe.
And then there is the richness that comes to each of us because we pray. I have more time to pray, even though it sometimes feels like mumbling and grumbling about my unemployment. But God continues to ask me to let go of what I hold so tightly to myself even in this. Momentarily, I let go of my anxiety, worry and fear and soak in the realization that God will continue to provide. So, if you are reading this, then know that I have prayed for you within the richness of God. This is the promise of connection and the abundance of God.
I am so behind with my reading. Bobbie and Michael…WOW!!!
“You make my heart soar like a hawk”!!!