Life Centered on God

07-31-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our first reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes from the most frequently referred to book in the earliest of Christian times. The title tells us so, as it means “out of/ from the church” meaning the book most often read and referred to in the earliest of Christian gatherings. They used it so frequently because they wanted to understand life and faith in their daily lives. The book itself was composed in times when Israel was prosperous and the cultural leaders and elites thought they had the power to unlock and explain the mysteries of God. This occurred roughly during the fourth and third centuries before Christ. The thinkers and leaders of then believed that God was definable and also understandable. We know centuries later that God is really beyond total human understanding. This also means God is beyond our control and God’s actions are beyond our prediction.

Qoheleth is the principal speaker to us in our first passage. His lines are quite sobering. He does not mince words or use diplomatic language. He is very concerned about what we know and ever so much less concerned about whom we know. He is not what we would say “into networking” for himself or for ourselves. As a preacher and person, Qoheleth is not a handsome, well-groomed speaker who is trying to make us all feel a lot better about ourselves.

This brash and strong speaker has witnessed everything possible. He knows that personal vanity is deeply rooted and that we have a tendency to accumulate “stuff or things” and that also in addition we have a desire to control which is unceasing and endlessly inventive. Qoheleth, however, insists that the world is mysterious and that its ways are far beyond our reckoning. Simply put: God is the giver and we the receivers. Some people erroneously conclude that this excuses us from being involved in the world, instead, this reality tells us that instead we must observe and evaluate our involvement and make sure that we are always actively involved.

Do you think or suspect the man who shouted out to Jesus in today’s Gospel really wanted Jesus to solve his inheritance problem? Only some suspect he did. It appears that the question of money was most on his mind and perhaps he thought the famous miracle worker could solve his problem. Jesus did answer his question as best as he could, but then He moved on to talk about wealth, or as we would say in common talk “money”. Jesus says that when the accumulation of money or wealth alone is number one to us, we are in trouble. It can unbalance our lives. It becomes the total purpose of our life and not the means to living a deeply meaningful and wonderfully joyous life. Usually this excessive drive for money or wealth ultimately divides people and more so divides one’s heart This kind of living is not worthy of the human soul and the dignity of a person. We all need to work hard and provide the best life possible in many ways, but there is a limit to how this all works itself out. When God, family, and friends start to count less, then we have lost the balance. No matter what, we all need to have our life centered on God. He is our great wealth. If we do so, then family and friends will come next.