The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 31 July 2022 Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23 ><}}}*> Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 ><}}}*> Luke 12:13-21
Last Friday I officiated at the funeral Mass of a younger first cousin; a week earlier, I had anointed him with Oil for the Sick with general absolution of his sins, commending him to God as he was afflicted with a rare disease that attacks the autoimmune system.
It is one of the difficult part in our lives as priests, when sickness and death come closest at home considering that fact that I officiated his wedding about 20 years ago and baptized his eldest son now grown up. That is why our readings today are so timely for me because my cousin Gilbert was only 49 when he died, being the most silent and “goodest” of my cousins who never got into any trouble nor any sickness while we were growing up together in Bocaue, Bulacan. How I felt like Qoheleth, saying….
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill and yet another, who has not labored over it, must leave the property. This is also vanity and a great misfortune.Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21
Qoheleth is what the author calls himself which is not a proper name but a function of a speaker or a preacher to an assembly which is in Latin ecclesia; hence, it is called the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Despite the tone of his message of “vanity of vanities”, the author is not a “kill joy” or KJ who is provoking a culture of pessimism; in fact, he is trying to search for what truly lasts, for the Absolute good who is God. We have seen how in literature and music that poems and songs of despair are often the most beautiful because the anguish we feel can paradoxically be expressions of our burning desire for something, someone more permanent, more lasting and unchanging – who else and nothing else but God who is not vanity!
If we try to own every line of Qoheleth and reflect deeply on it, we somehow feel a strong similarity with our own cries of despair in life when nothing matters anymore especially with the lost of a loved one, or something so precious that deep inside us we felt with certitude that only God could fill that void.
Yes, all is vanity if we are cut off from God, when all our efforts and our very lives are separated from him because he alone is the Reason. Everything, everyone is meaningful because of God. That is why in the second reading, St. Paul is asking us to “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col.3:1).
In this world where everything is measured in popularity, in being viral or trending that are all vanities because of their temporariness, so many have fallen into the trap of empty promises of modern lifestyles. See how despite the affluence we now enjoy, we have become more empty in life, more alienated from each other even from one’s self, lacking in meaning and depth in life and existence. Sometimes, results can be fatal when people realize what they have been seeing and hearing in media are not at all true and so far from reality that death becomes an escape than a direction that leads us to the Absolutely Perfect, God and eternal life.
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell. my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable.Luke 12:13-16
Like Qoheleth, here we find Jesus acting like a “kill-joy” to the man requesting his help to have his share of the inheritance. His responses seems so abrupt and worst of all, very cold! But, it was not really addressed to the man asking the Lord’s intervention. Notice how Luke tells us Jesus addressing the man as “friend” before turning to the “crowd”.
Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem and saw another opportunity today to teach the people – the crowd – not just the man asking his help of something of high importance in this life which is of being “rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:21).
Jesus is just and fair, so loving and merciful, very mindful of our needs; however, in the light of the previous gospel scenes we have reflected, we find that Jesus concerns himself only in what matters to God. He does care about our bodily and material needs that he assures us to not worry so much about these because God will never forsake us.
Jesus had come not to be our judge and arbiter on matters about our material and worldly concerns like getting rich and famous and other vanities in life; Jesus came to teach us about what matters to God like love and mercy, kindness and care, justice and freedom. Jesus came to teach us ways of how we may inherit eternal life!
We do not have to spell out and enumerate one by one these things that matters to God of which Jesus is most concerned with; eventually, as we journey with him in life, as we carry our cross, we realize slowly in life these things that matter to God are for sure not material possessions, most often things that matter after death.
That is the grace we find ironically in every death – when somebody dies, we realize deep inside what truly matters to God. As they say, death is the best equalizer in life. And best teacher.
Last week we have the beautiful series of readings from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, teeming with life and assurances of love and protection from God. We see how the loving hands of God are like of the potter who molds us into fine earthen vessels of his majesty and glory.
Sometimes we sink into so much self-pity when things are not turning out according to our plans in life, forgetting how God loves us so much, of how he uses even the most tragic and painful events in our lives for our own good because he believes in us.
Yes. God believes in you! Everything is vanity without him, without you!
Would you rather spend everything just for a piece of land or some money or level of fame than living in peace, the greatest gift we can all have in life? That is the whole point of God in telling Jeremiah about being a clay in the potter’s hand – many times in our lives we have to be crushed and mashed, even reduced to being grounded for us to emerge finer and refined, better and more beautiful than before.
Recall those trying days of the past when you chose to bear it all, to be silent and patient. Maybe for a while or a few moments our opponents seemed to have won, or have the upper hand but in the long run, we find we are more fruitful, we are more peaceful because everything and everyone has become meaningful in God. That is because we love.
Of all that things that matter with God that we should be rich is love. Love, love, love. As the Beatles said, all you need is love! True. Sometimes it could be foolish to love, to let go of things and insults and pains and hurts.
But, God is greater than our hearts (1 Jn.3:20) and can never be outdone in generosity.
The more we love, the more we are given with more love. That is when we become truly rich in what matters to God. Amen.
Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!