Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Luke 12:13-21


July 30-31, 2022, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. Boy, old Qoheleth was having a bad day when he wrote that first reading, wasn't he. Qoheleth, in Hebrew, and Ecclesiastes in Greek, means "the one who addresses the assembly". The rest of the book of Ecclesiastes continues this depressing message that nothing has any real value. People might legitimately ask why such a depressing book was included in the Bible. For one thing, it is consistent with all of Scripture's realistic view of life. The Bible is not some story of life seen through rose c0lored glasses. As despairing as Qoheleth's assessment is, it is a view that is shared by many today. Tradition identifies Qoheleth as King Solomon. Whether it was actually King Solomon or someone writing from his perspective, Ecclesiastes is an extended description of what Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel reading: if we forget where everything in existence comes from, and why it exists in the first place, we quickly learn that there is nothing of lasting value in life. Solomon had it all: riches, fame, power, wisdom, 700 wives and 300 concubines (I find it hard to say "wisdom" and "had 700 wives" in the same breath!). And yet it is clear from Ecclesiastes and several other books of the Bible that he died depressed and reviled.

The truth of the matter, as expressed by St. Augustine, is that we are made for God, and until we rest in God, we will never find fulfillment. Now does this mean that material things or worldly success are inherently bad, and we should avoid them like the plague? Jesus never taught that riches in themselves are bad or that we should avoid them. As he does in this parable, he instead taught that it is putting riches before God or even before other people is what is bad. Riches are given to us as stewards. We are to use these riches for those things that matter to God rather than hoarding them for ourselves.  As Jesus points out in his parable of the rich man, once we remove God from the equation, people quickly turn to material things to try and fill that longing. But no amount or type of material things can fill the longing that every human being has inside. So where people have put all their focus on material things, despair soon follows. 

Paul uses language that is clearly baptismal to explain the same thing. Paul reminds us that because we have died with Christ in Baptism, we have risen to new life in Christ, and engaging in negative behaviors or putting material things before God or others, are inconsistent with a life in Christ. 

What a perfect set of readings for a summer weekend here in our  apple valley Catholic community in 2022! How do we cope with the despair laden approach to life that bombards us from every side? Where do we focus our attention and our efforts? Are we like the rich man in the parable, building bigger and bigger storehouses to squirrel away our things?

This summer season with its heat and humidity is a wonderful reminder to slow down a little and focus on the things that matter to God. As Paul reminds us in the last part of the second reading, our real treasure is to be found in the kingdom of God, where the differences between us melt away. Let us take stock of the harvest we have been blessed with. What is that we are filled to overflowing with? Is it material wealth, is it a sympathetic ear, or even just a little free time? How can we move from an attitude that seeks to hoard these gifts to one that seeks to spend them in pursuit of the things that matter to God?

It is spending those gifts on things that matter to God that makes us truly rich, and acts as the perfect antidote to despair.

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