The only thing that lasts is our relationship with God

Tom Bartolomeo
18th Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:11-23; Psalm 90;
Colossians 3: 1-5,9-11; Luke 12: 13-21
Reproduced with Permission

Glory in death is not vain, everything else is. At death we leave everything behind, our homes, spouses, children, friends and enemies, our money and debt, our achievements and failures, our plans and disappointments. Jesus rose from the dead with his injuries glorified "by whose wounds you were healed". (1 Peter 2:24).

Why do men now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod: And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears men's smudge and shares men's smell: the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

I borrowed these line from a favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. And while I had the opportunity I borrowed these other lines from Saint Peter Chrysologus.

Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? (From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, Office of the Hours, July 30).

What in the world was the man thinking when he asked Jesus, "tell my brother to share the inheritance with me"? (cf. Luke 12 ff). Or what vain favor would we ask God for without caring why God made us as if we could ignore Him? Whatever the basis for the man's dispute with his brother Jesus knew he could not help either one of them. We should be careful what we pray for. The parable Jesus told made that point. We can not get out of this world alive, and that is a blessing. Staying here forever would be hell. We should also be careful not to buy into the "good life" or the "American dream" which regularly disappoints us. Just what does "getting ahead" or "falling behind" mean when it is filled with distress? It all seems rather self-fulling. "Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth."

While listening to the letter of Saint Paul being read I was struck by his frustration preaching to people who discriminate one class of individuals from another while proclaiming the gospel of Christ who had no place of his own "to lay his head" not even a burrow like a fox or a nest like a bird to return to (Matthew 8,20). And Jesus slept very well, I believe, compared to one who, Qoheleth said, "profit[s] . . . from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun"[and] . . . "days of sorrow and grief . . .[in] his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1 ff).

I am afraid many of us may go through life sleep-walking caught up in whatever worry or obsession comes along. Why Jesus said many times, "stay awake" and Saint Paul repeated, "now [is] the hour for you to wake from sleep. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in daylight." (Romans 13:11b, 12-13a). I know that none of you would argue that you created yourselves but some of you would ignore 'why God made you.' When we hear Saint Paul speaking we should keep in mind that he was speaking to converts, adults who were not baptized as small children. They could readily compare who they were before and after their conversion. "For you have died", the Apostle Paul said, "and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3, ). "Hidden with Christ in God" in heaven. Why we should "think what is above, not what is on earth." If we regularly "think of what is above" we may find our way there someday, Let us hope. When we came here this morning none of us forget where his home is. How often must we remind ourselves where our permanent home is?

Still--returning to the question which Saint Peter Chrysologus had asked, Why did God create us? It is for many either incomprehensible or unimportant. What godly purpose, we may ask, would our existence have any bearing on God who neither needs anything or anyone? The answer to the mystery ultimately rests in God Himself. All we know is that God explained his intentions to our first parents before they choose to separate themselves from God. "Be fertile and multiply", God had told them. He said nothing else except that he created them in his own image and that it was "not good" for man to be alone. God choose to increase himself in us. We are essentially the image of a creative and generous God, why we call him, Father, so much so that his Son, Jesus Christ, became man and endured our pain that we may return to Paradise with his Son as his Father's adopted children. God glories in giving himself away to us, and he isn't diminished in the effort, but actually grows in glory in our eyes. The saints knew this, and how gloriously happy and fulfilled they were complying with God's will in this life and in life hereafter.