Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Homily for September 22nd, 2016: Ecclesiastes 1:2-11.

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher. Vanity of vanities!” Is that good news -- to be told that life is empty and without meaning, which is what those words are saying? Hardly. The book which begins with those words, Ecclesiastes, repeats them like a refrain. Ecclesiastes has been called the most cynical book in the Bible. It contains the bad news that we need to hear to prepare us for the good news brought to us by Jesus Christ.

The bad news is that life is indeed empty B Avanity,@ Ecclesiastes calls it B if we organize our lives apart from God. Is there anyone here who has done that? Probably not. Your presence here at a weekday Mass shows that God does have a place in your life. The question for us, therefore, is not: ADoes God have a place in my life?@ but rather: AWhat place does God have in my life? Is he at the center? Or have I pushed God out toward the fringe of my life?@   

As long as our lives are not centered on God – but on our own desires, our plans for a wonderful future, for possessions, pleasure, power over others, for recognition and fame – then we’ll never be happy. Why? Because if any of those things is central to us, our life will be organized around getting; and we’ll always be frustrated, because we’ll never get enough. 

The World War II British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill B not an especially religious man B said once: AWe make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.@ Churchill was right. Jesus says the same in different words: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35).

At the end of the day, there are basically two kinds of people: takers and givers. It is only the givers who find true and lasting happiness. No generous giver ever found life empty and meaningless –“vanity,” to use Ecclesiastes’ word. Giving people find life full of joy. And it was to give us joy that the Lord God sent his Him into the word who says in John’s gospel: “Live on in my love . . . that my joy may be yours and your joy may be compete” (15:9-11).