Luke 12:13-21 Vanity of vanities
“As you are I once was. As I am you will become.” - an inscription from a Roman tombstone
Before we can even arrive to Christ’s declaration that we must become “rich in what matters to God,” we have to arrive to Qoheleth’s conclusion that “everything under the sun is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
I should thank God everyday for the call I received some sixteen years ago to consecrate my life to his Son through the priesthood. Being a priest I have had the grace and blessing to visit many elderly in nursing homes and I have seen what it means to live a life of vanities. One individual, in particular, I will never be able to forget. An old woman who had spent her entire life dedicated to her career. She died alone, and for the most part, completely ignored and forgotten. I think I was headed in the same direction when I began working at Kodak as an engineer. I would show up to work on Saturday and Sunday just to get ahead of everyone else. I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and I wanted to do it quickly. One day my Jewish boss came in and saw me there. He looked at me in amazement and asked me why I was working on Sunday! I told him what I just told you. He told me, “Al, get a life! The day you die I guarantee you; we will have a replacement for you.” Material possessions will never compare to spiritual possessions: to love and to be loved, to know the Lord and to possess Him; to give all and receive MORE. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!” (Ps 90).
A recent article in Time Magazine boasted of the benefits of “single-child” families. They claimed that these children were not spoiled, selfish or lacking in any important matters. In fact, they were more than fine – they were doing great and increasing in America. But if we look at the failed experiment of single-child families in China, we can understand the tremendous loneliness and despair that so many of them experience. How? Imagine your life for a moment with your parents dead and gone, no aunts or uncles to look up to, no brothers or sisters to count on, no cousins to call on. This is a reality in China and it is being promoted across the world today.
May the Lord guard us from ever thinking that our heart could be satisfied with material possessions, positions or priorities contrary to the Gospel. There is very little that we need in order to survive, but there is much that we can do in order to succeed. The first and foremost is to hear the word of God, listen to it and incorporate it into our life. Jesus asks only two things from us. He summarizes our life expectancy and quality of life in two commandments: Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself. “This is the glory of God: a man fully alive” (St. Ireneaus of Lyons). Love your neighbor means love your wife, love your husband, love your father, love your mother, love your brothers, love your sisters, love your neighbor and - it gets worse – LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! Yes, the Lord demands a lot from us! But how we love on earth will determine how we are loved in Heaven!
“I came that they might have life, and might have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10)