July 30, 2010

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading this weekend is from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

The first verse states that the book is the work of Qoheleth, a son of King David, although no proper name is used. The book’s origins, despite this tradition, are puzzling.

The name of this book comes from the Greek and then the Latin. Furthermore, this book seems to show a Greek influence, and Greek culture did not influence the Jews until centuries after Solomon. However, its Hebrew is of a style used long after Solomon’s time.

Many scholars today believe that Ecclesiastes dates from only two or three centuries before Christ.

A virtual trademark of this book is its condemnation of human vanity. This scorn of vanity is noted in this weekend’s reading.

Vanity, of course, affronts God, the almighty and the perfect. It also displays the ignorance and illogic of people, who see in human thought the greatest wisdom. This tendency leads them to regard material wealth as an important value. Vanity also causes them to discount or even spurn God.

For its second reading, the Church presents a passage from the Epistle to the Colossians.

Continuing the message of the first Scripture reading, this selection from Colossians calls upon Christians to focus on the things that truly matter in life, namely the things of God. It also counsels believers to resist the temptations of this world, and it identifies sin as idolatry.

St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

Jesus appears in this reading as a mediator. He is asked by “someone in the crowd” to resolve a dispute about an inheritance.

Readers of the Gospel are accustomed to such questions being put to the Lord. Did this person in the crowd, unnamed and unidentified in the Gospel, intend to trick Jesus or put him in an awkward position in the middle of an argument?

Of course, it is possible that the questioner’s intentions were not pure. However, to invite anyone to mediate a dispute was a compliment. Such a request presupposed that the person being questioned possessed knowledge. Furthermore, it assumed that all sides would respect the integrity and wisdom of the mediator.

Not surprisingly, outright strangers, whose credentials were unknown, were never invited to mediate between arguing parties. So Jesus was in the midst of persons who were familiar with him as a person and teacher.

As would have been the etiquette of the time, Jesus hesitates before proceeding with this request.

Under Jewish custom, surviving children did not have to seek a clear division of a deceased parent’s belongings so there must have been a problem. Rather than plunging into the argument, the Lord advised them to avoid greed and insisted that material wealth has no true worth.

The Lord then tells the parable, or story, of the landowner who had great good fortune. His harvest was great. He planned to store the harvest so as to provide for his easy living in years to come. But such reasoning is foolhardy, Jesus emphasizes, because no human being can truly control his or her future. It would be better to distribute the abundance among the needy.


From the earliest times in the history of Revelation, holy people have dealt with the human tendency to measure all things, even life itself, in material terms. It was a tendency addressed by the author of Ecclesiastes, and Jesus dealt with it.

These readings do not call us to reckless waste and abandonment of good sense and responsibility. Rather, they remind us that we are in the hands of a loving God.

We ultimately control nothing about our future other than our voluntary decision to be one with God in Christ. In this decision, we assure ourselves a place at heaven’s eternal banquet.

This lesson is that we should always put first things first in life, and that God should be first in our minds and hearts. †

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