This week’s readings (July 30.31), we heard from Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” From Colossians: “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” And finally from the Gospel Luke, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
The message is one for all the ages, one that we all need to ponder upon deeply. For something to be vain, it is essentially empty, worthless, of no lasting value. This is very much related to greed which focuses our attention on things that are empty, things that will never satisfy. Due to our sinfulness, we have all entertained and acted on our desires for things that cannot satisfy. We have all entertained thoughts and words that are misdirected and will bear no spiritual or corporeal fruit. In fact, such words and actions may very well cause scandal to others to the point of leaving the faith.
We must be all the more careful in our world today as Christians not to cause others to stumble while also sharing the truth in charity. So, today, listen and hear the voice of the Lord! Choose to be people whose love is full and not vain. Allow the parts of your life, your desires that will do you no ultimate good, those things that are arrogant, prideful, harsh, unloving, addictive, illusionary, selfish, divisive, lying, impure, immoral, and callous—allow these parts to die in Christ. Yes! It will involve suffering, for we want to hold on to them so much. Now is the time to do this. Now is the time when the political, economic, and violent parts of our world are so prevalent.
The Church exists for the salvation of souls. We are all given the mission to further this goal. To know salvation is to know the Truth, Jesus. Indeed, the world needs to know the Truth, but it is not sufficient to say, “I’m just tellin’ it like it is,” all the while steamrolling the person in arrogance and pride. We must pray to rid ourselves of any vestiges of vanity that can become a roadblock to the Truth. This is not about just being nice, but being charitable, being sensitive to the situation of the other, listening and building a relationship with the other, journeying with them, and sharing our hearts and what God has done for us.
Our world needs to know Jesus. We need to know Jesus more deeply as well. Let us not be embarrassed nor fearful for admitting our sinfulness, for by repenting we allow Christ to shine through us. It is through our woundedness that we can help heal. It is by our true love of God and our neighbor that we become the people we have always been meant to be. It is by being beacons of light that we will attract others to the knowledge of the Truth.
My friends in Christ, much is at stake... our souls and the souls of others. Let us strive for the narrow way through our own suffering and dying to our vanities. May Christ in the Eucharist be our strength, so that we be conformed into the likeness of Him who loves us so much.
Fr. William Holtzinger