Homily 18th Sunday OT C 8/1/10
“Vanity of vanities, says Quoheleth,
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!”
The Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes is one long, extended meditation on how vain – in other words, how empty, how unsatisfying and how superficial – this world we live in is.
Quoheleth searches high and low in the world, and comes to the conclusion that “all things are vanity” and “vexation of spirit” or wearisome to the spirit of man.
Quoheleth first tries to escape from this emptiness in pleasures of the flesh, but after doing so, he found this even more empty, vain and unsatisfying. Then he tries to drink his emptiness away with wine and alcohol; neither does this satisfy him.
Then he tries to laugh away his emptiness with jokes and entertainment, but even this he finds unsatisfying and shallow, his spirit now more restless than ever.
So next, Quoheleth tries to find meaning in his work. He says “I undertook great works; I built myself houses and planted vineyards . . . . gardens and parks, I constructed reservoirs, and acquired servants to work under me, and became the richest and wisest person in all the land”
“But when I turned to all the works that my hands had wrought . . . . behold! All was vanity,” and “wearying to my spirit.”
Lastly, he tries to find satisfaction in science and learning, becoming the wisest man in all the land. But even the pursuit of knowledge left him just as empty and unsatisfied as an uneducated person.
And so Quoheleth sadly concludes that “There is nothing new under the Sun,” that everything under the Sun is old, and weary and unsatisfying. “Even the thing which people say ‘Wow, this is new and exciting’ has been done before, it’s the same old same old.”
And really, this inspired message of this Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes could not be more relevant in our time.
How many Quoheleth’s there are in our world today, how the Quoheleth mentality tempts the best of us, how many young, old, and middle aged men and women today are chasing after things of the world, even things good and virtuous in themselves, trying to find ultimate happiness, contentment, and satisfaction, and coming too late to the conclusion: “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity!”
The Bible does not lie, the hard truth is, that all things in this fallen world, even legitimate pleasures, are vain and empty. The harsh reality is, that “there is nothing new under the sun,” nor will there ever be, but all remains old and tired and dull, for our world apart from God is fallen.
But while the Bad News of the is that there is nothing new under the Sun, the Good News of is that now, there is and forever will be something new above the Sun.
For high above the Sun, high above this vain and empty world of fleeting pleasures and lasting affliction, there now sits Our Lord Jesus on His Glorious Throne, still as young, and as strong, and as manly as ever for these past 2000 years.
And Jesus says to us here on earth, “behold, I make all things New for those who turn from the vanity of this world, embrace the Cross, and follow after me.”
And that’s not all that is “new” above the Sun. For standing at the Right Hand of Jesus, radiant in beauty, eternally youthful in Her glorified body and soul, is Mary, the ever Virgin, Queen of Peace, and full of graces which she showers down in abundance upon those who strive to follow Her Son.
St. Paul tells us therefore to “seek what is above . . . .not what is on earth. For in Baptism you have died to this world and it’s vain pleasures, and your life is now hidden with Christ.”
It is the great paradox of Christianity, which is as relevant today as it ever was, that the key to joy and fulfillment and happiness is to embrace a life of self-denial, of simplicity in our lifestyles, of a radical, counter-cultural chastity in body and mind, of an even more radical forgiveness towards one’s enemies, and of generosity to the poor.
And so, you and I must choose each day whether we will chase after Vanity, or follow the Way of Jesus. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
At every Mass, at the Preface before the Holy Holy, the priest says “Lift up your hearts” and the people respond “We lift them up to the Lord”
May the grace of the Holy Eucharist enable us to not harden, but truly lift up our hearts and minds and bodies high above this vain and unsatisfying world; may it enable us to die to this world, and live each day of our life in the Kingdom, by the power of the New, Eternally Youthful Holy Spirit of Jesus our Risen and Ascended Lord.