WELCOME: To the latest email recipients of "First Impressions"
the retreatants from the Vallombrosa Center, Menlo Park, California.
When our congregation hears the Ecclesiastes reading today they
will wonder who Qoheleth is. It is probably not the name of one
person, but might refer to a student gathering, or a collection of
wisdom sayings. People may not know the meaning of the word Qoheleth,
but you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to understand the message.
The opening lines are a good summary of the whole book of
Ecclesiastes: "Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of
vanities! All things are vanity." Another translation of the Hebrew
could be "breath" or "vapor." One translator has it: "utter
futility!" So, "all things" are "breath," "vapor," or "utterly
futility. We are reminded by Ecclesiastes that the things of this
world are ephemeral. It is as if a person has reached the end of
their days and is looking back. Their life is almost over and they
realize they have invested their precious energies on things no more
substantial than breath or vapor. What a downer!
The sage offers us plenty of material for reflection today. Where
and how are we using our time and best energies? While we need to
support our families, and take care of ourselves now and for the
future, how much is too much? Are our energies well spent? Whom do
they include and who is left out of our concerns? Ecclesiastes is
part of the Hebrew wisdom literature. Despite its gloomy and
pessimistic outlook, it does offer some perspective.
I want to look back on my life and feel I have, for the most
part, lived it wisely. I don’t want to be shocked someday, like the
man in today’s parable, who heard the dreadful accusation, "You
fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things
you have prepared, to whom will they belong?" For the person hearing
those words the opportunity to reevaluate and change has passed. He
is not being offered time and he has no control over his fate – his
life will be "demanded" of him.
But, unlike the man, we still have time. The parable is stark,
but offers grace. Like a security alarm that warns us of danger it
can, like Ecclesiastes, be shining a light on our lives and offering
us wisdom. The parable presents an unfortunate, but not uncommon
scene. For example, who hasn’t heard of a major conflict and break
among formally close sisters and brothers over a parent’s estate? A
close relationship is torn to pieces. Even when parents did what
they could to prevent this type of conflict, after their deaths, the
children go to court to get what they can from the inheritance. The
arguments aren’t usually over the necessities for survival, but a
grab for as much as possible. We seem to want more and more,
thinking that will make us happy. Meanwhile, there is that intrusive
voice that enters the scene and says, "You fool…." Jesus has also
taught elsewhere that it is not our riches that can secure life.
Maybe the parable will open our eyes and help us put limits on how
much we want – and help us construct a boundary between sanity and
A long time ago Peggy Lee had a popular song called, "Is That All
There Is?" It was a song of dissatisfaction and disappointment. Is
that how the man in the parable was acting? Did he not see beyond
this present life? Did he conclude that this life was all there was
for him so, as Peggy Lee sang, "If that’s all there is my friends,
then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.
If that’s all there is."
The rich man lived as if, "that’s all there is." If he were a
devout Jew he would have acknowledged the bountiful harvest he had
as a gift from God. He would have shared with those who were in
need. There is no mention in the parable that he had family. Would
they have had any say in what he did with his rich harvest? Nor did
he ask advice from his workers and friends. Jesus sums it up when he
says, "Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves,
but are not rich in what matters to God."
The man’s focus was himself. His chief advisor was himself. The
only beneficiary to his actions would be himself. Notice how many
times "I" is used in his decision-making. God’s response: "You
fool." He consulted a fool for advice and got a fool’s response. The
man loved his riches, that’s where his heart was. But he would have
no opportunity to enjoy his wealth, because he would die that night.
Do we presume God is going to strike him dead? There are other
possible causes for his death. A rich man who hoarded his wealth
could have been killed by thieves, disgruntled workers, even a
jealous member of his family. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Jesus accuses the man of not being "rich in what matters to God."
He was habitually disposed to think of himself first, instead of
pondering where true happiness lies and then acting on what he
discovered. God is the source of true happiness and Jesus links love
of neighbor with love of God. Loving God and showing it through love
of neighbor would have brought him happiness. But there is no
mention of neighbor in this parable; it is just the man talking to
The man’s life is about to take a sudden turn; he will die that
night. There are other ways for our lives to take sudden turns: the
results of a medical exam; the phone call at 2 AM; the death of a
family member, or beloved friend; a layoff at work; the breakup of a
marriage. These and many other crises can make life very difficult
to bear; but they can be devastating if our lives are not rooted in
God, who is our rock in hard times and our strength to see us
Money can give out on us. But it can also be the means by which
we express where our treasure lies. Besides using it to cover life’s
basic needs, how else do we use our resources? Do we use our money
to care for the least? And it isn’t just about money, is it? Our
calendar can tell us how we use another treasure – our time – and it
will show where our treasure lies. As the end approaches the
elderly, or terminally ill, sometimes express regret with how they
used their time. They will recall how they worried and were fretful
over unimportant concerns and lost sight of what really mattered.
Why wait till the end? Why not put this question to ourselves. "What
really matters in my life and what am I doing about it?" To put it
another way: we need to open our barn doors and share our treasures
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness
I love daybreak. Recently, I opened the drapes to
see the early morning light streaming, like grace-filled ribbons,
through my little woods. God gives us each day to begin again. The
simplicity of the early morning always seems to get complicated
quickly by the demands on our lives. One of the barriers to
retaining a simple life is the importance we give to things rather
than God and human relationships. The conspicuous consumerism that
is pushed by advertising often says who we are is determined by what
we own. And so, we mistakenly acquire more and more. If we have too
many belongings, we suffer for it.
This summer is a great time to reduce, repair,
repurpose, or recycle the things of our lives. The Chinese have a
practice called "Feng Shui" in which they clear out stuff in order
to bring new energy into their lives. In Christianity, sharing our
abundance with those less fortunate, helps us regain our priorities
and find our true selves. Below are listed some of the
agencies/ministries where you can share some of your stash:
- Bargain Box 401 Woodburn Rd. (Cameron
- Catholic Parish Outreach--baby clothing
(infant through toddler), equipment, toys, and books and
maternity clothing 2013 Raleigh Blvd. Raleigh
- DORCAS Thrift Shop 187 High House Rd. Cary
- Dress for Success--professional women’s
clothing, shoes, accessories 1812 Tillery Place Raleigh
- First Baptist Church clothing shop 99 N.
Salisbury St. Raleigh
- Gabriel Project--a Sacred Heart ministry
assisting pregnant women
- Garner Area Ministries 401 Aversboro Rd.
- Green Chair Project--furniture & accessories
1853 Capital Blvd. Raleigh
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore--building and
home products 2420 Raleigh Blvd. Raleigh (there are also stores
in Cary, Apex, and Fuquay-Varina)
- Helping Hand Mission 623 Rock Quarry Rd.
- Interact’s Pass It On Too 1012 Oberlin Rd.
- North Raleigh Ministries Thrift Store 9650
Strickland Rd. Ste. 161 Raleigh
- A Note in the Pocket--a Sacred Heart ministry
for gently used school clothing
- Wheels for Hope--auto donations 929 S.
Saunders St. Raleigh
- With Love from Jesus 421 Chapanoke Rd.
Fill someone’s daybreak with your
----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart
18th SUNDAY -C- July 31,
Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2:21-23; Psalm 95; Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Luke
Mini-reflections on the
Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith
Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish
bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
God said to [the rich man],
fool, this night your life will be demanded of you,
the things you have prepared, to whom will they go?"
The man’s life is about to take a sudden turn; he will die that
night. There are many ways our lives can take a sudden turn. A
crisis can make life very difficult to bear; but it can be
devastating, if our lives are not rooted in God, who is our rock in
hard times and our strength to see us through.
So we ask ourselves:
- Besides using money to cover life’s basic needs, how else do
we use our resources?
- Do we use our money to care for the least and do we reach
out beyond our usual circle to give?
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really
be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- John Williams #0599379 (On death row since 3/5/98)
- Danny Frogg #0137368 (3/7/98)
- Allen Holman #0587681 (4/7/98)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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