Sunday, 4 August 2019
Meaningless, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
I've spent this past week with a couple hundred youth Catholics at the Faith Summer Session. And it's always encouraging to see how our Catholic Faith can give meaning and purpose to life, especially when we're young.
I want to share with you some perspectives from those young adults, especially as they relate to our first reading.
Our first reading, from the book of Ecclesiastes, is one of my favourite passages of the Bible. It’s a deeply gloomy text, but it powerfully expresses those dark moods that can come upon so many of us in difficulty:
“Vanity of vanities. ALL is vanity!... what does a man gain for all his toil under the sun?” (Ecc 1:2;2:22)
The word our translation renders as ‘vanity’ is more literally ‘vapour’ or ‘mist’ -i.e. nothingness.
Other translations render this as “meaningless”
-i.e. our labour is all for nothing, it has no purpose, it is meaningless.
There are two levels of interpretation of this text.
The first is literal:
Much of life does indeed feel hard, an effort, for little gain.
At the literal level, the text shows that the Bible, our inspired Scripture fully engages with the REALITY of life.
We don’t need to pretend that life is easy.
When I feel overwhelmed, HERE is a passage of the Bible that expresses how I feel.
In addition, however, there is a deeper level of interpretation: the Patristic interpretation.
This interpretation says that life is meaningless WHEN it is a life without Christ, and IF it is life without Christ.
I have no purpose,
if I do not know the Creator who created me with a purpose.
I have no meaning in life,
if I do not Him who said of Himself: “I am THE way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).
Back to the young people.
I spend a lot of my time and effort as a priest working with youth. Especially within the Faith Movement, which is a national organisation focused on youth apostolate.
One of the repeated observations of young people who DO believe, is that their life has a meaning and direction that unbelievers around them don’t have.
-Young Catholics who have made the CHOICE to believe, at that level of maturity when it has truly become their OWN choice, such young people realise in a very personal way how important knowing Christ is if we are to have meaning.
Young people can see a wealthier society than previous generations knew.
But they also see much uncertainty,
and, as the saying goes, “Money can’t buy you happiness”.
The rich man is today’s parable couldn’t take his money with him when he died -money doesn’t last.
When you’re young it's important to know where life is heading.
So, as our second reading put it, “You must look for the things of heaven, where Christ is”(Col 3:1).
And, of course, at the end of life, the elderly also need that meaning and purpose that comes from knowing where life is heading.
So, to close, let’s reflect today on the importance of knowing the meaning of life.
Let’s reflect on the importance of knowing Christ.
Because without Him, “Vanity of vanities. ALL is vanity!” (Ecc 1:2)