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July 28, 2010
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Aug. 1: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Overview: Ecclesiastes speaks throughout of the futility of life and how all our efforts to acquire fame and fortune are, in the end, worthless. It is, in a way, a very “modern” book, for the author paints a realistic picture of life that most people today can relate to. He tries to make sense of human existence which seems utterly pointless, but to no avail. Ecclesiastes is the “bad news” that makes the “good news” intelligible. This week’s first reading talks about the emptiness of work: “What profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” Qoheleth asks. Work, which is supposed to be a source of joy and accomplishment, is for many people dehumanizing and depressing, especially when it is done only for money. The message for us is that apart from God, human life, including work, is ultimately futile. The second reading is a fitting response to Ecclesiastes. It begins by directing our attention to “what is above; where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Having been raised with Christ in baptism we are called to live life with a view toward heaven. Our values are meant to be shaped by Christ, not the world. We are to “put to death” the unseemly values of the world and put on, instead, “a new self” infused with the knowledge of God and the things of heaven. In this week’s Gospel Jesus warns against the dangers of greed. He illustrates this by telling a parable about a man who worked hard his whole life amassing wealth as an end in itself. “Though one may be rich,” he says, “life does not consist of possessions.” The man’s great surplus could have done so much good; but instead he horded his riches, depriving himself of eternal rewards.
Key verse: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:2).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle” (No. 1090).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the feast of the Resurrection” (“Feast of Faith”).
Life application: In a recent talk to the Liturgy Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Chicago, Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., reflected that in a culture dominated by a scientific and materialistic worldview, spiritual realities and the things of God are almost incomprehensible, thus making the worship of God difficult. The Mass is intended to open for us a “window” into heaven so that we can see, hear, taste and touch the things of God, however faintly. When we orient our lives to “the things that are above, where Christ is” then all our labors and accomplishments find their true meaning and purpose.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese.