Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading is from the Book of Ecclesiastes, sometimes referred to as the Book of Qoheleth, a book rarely appearing in the readings at Mass. It is among the works in the Bible collectively called the Wisdom Literature.
(The origin of the name “Qoheleth” is unknown.)
It provides genuine wisdom, saying that the revelation of God, and of God’s law, a part of the Hebrew tradition, is not unreasonable or farfetched. To the contrary, the understandings drawn from divine revelation correspond with the best of human logic.
This weekend’s reading shares a basic conviction of the authors of the Wisdom Literature as well as with the prophets, the conviction that humans create misery for themselves, even their doom, by wandering from the path set down by God’s revelation. In other words, people dig their own graves.
Essentially, the Book of Qoheleth is frank, hitting the nail on the head, ultimately exposing human recklessness in making decisions without God.
For its second reading on this weekend, the Church offers us a passage from the Epistle to the Colossians. As was the case in so many cities and places in the Roman Empire of the last quarter of the First Century AD, Colossae was a pagan city. Most of the population was pagan. The culture was pagan. Christians were considered odd, at best, a threat, at worst.
To inspire the Christians in Colossae, Paul wrote this letter. The first part of this epistle presses once more the basic fact that true believers are united with Jesus. They are in the “company” of Christ. When the last judgment comes, when the books of life are balanced, truly faithful Christians will have Jesus at their side.
As the second point, the epistle tells the Christians of Colossae that there is no substitute for avoiding not just sin, but also, as the theologians say, the “occasion of sin”. Christians should realize that their instincts can be very powerful and cannot always be trusted. The faithful put their instincts to the question of whether yielding to them conforms with the Lord’s teachings.
St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. It is a parable, spoken by Jesus in response to an appeal to settle a disagreement between a man and his brother.
Christ calls upon the man, and the disciples, to see material possessions for what they are, hardly the most important thing in the world. Acquiring them can be hard, maybe a burden to the conscience. They certainly have no eternal value.
Jesus speaks harshly in this passage, calling a person who frantically searches for material gain a “fool”. This term is not expressly an echo of the theme of the Wisdom Literature, but it is consistent with the Wisdom writings, such as Qoheleth.
A modern French aircraft carrier was the “Richelieu”, named for one of the most effective architects of French glory and imperial power four centuries ago, Cardinal Armand Jean de Plessis de Richelieu (1585-1642). As Bishop of Lucon, the cardinal instituted imaginative projects to restore Catholic fervor after the Reformation which had so battered the Church, increased devotion, knowledge of Church teachings, works of mercy, and so on.
His administrative brilliance led to his appointment as French prime minister. Never personally immoral, he nevertheless compromised his spiritual bearings. Advancing France, by any means, was his only purpose in life.
When he was dying, according to one legend, he said that if he had substituted the prime minister’s palace for a monk’s cell, he would not fear death.
Cardinal Richelieu was only one of very many people who have looked back over their lives and regretted their foolishness, but their foolish goals were magnificent in the eyes of the world.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.