It is exciting to see how various preachers are inspired by the same text. Here we present an inspired homily on vanity and unity by Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan of Arizona. I am thankful for Dr. Meehan’s sharing. My spirit resonates with her inspiration. And I reflect here on the awareness of our own mortality and what that can and must do to in our lives. We both conclude that unity with the vast diversity of humankind is possible in Christ and has profound meaning for our lives and times. Even as Pope Francis commented that making bridges and not walls is the imperative of our times, we must be careful now in the USA and everywhere to embrace leaders who can lead us in compassion and justice, in unity.
ALL Are Welcome at the Table
My own reflections on the same readings in Ecclesiastes and Luke 12:13-21 focus on the “mortality awareness” in these texts. It is vanity to think that we can live here on earth forever when we can be called home to God at any moment and be forced to leave behind whatever legacy we have accumulated. It is vanity to think that our lives and deaths are in our full control no matter how, these days, we try to control every aspect of life from birth to death. To the wealthy man who accumulated more and more riches and needed bigger and bigger barns to put them in God said “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” In other words the old adage holds true of all material things-“you can’t take it with you when you go”. And a spiritual and scriptural insight is true as well: “Your life is not measured by what you own, but by who you are and what you’ve done for the kingdom of God, for your neighbor”. But the words of the Epistle also are a challenging yet reassuring reality: If we have put on Christ, we are already dead to greed and vanity-we are alive to love and justice and are already renewed. This new life rises with Christ forever, starting now and continuing after earthly death: “Christ is all and in all” and we are in Christ.
Just a few words about genuine mortality awareness. When I was a young Professor of Social Work teaching a course in Human Development, I taught that young people don’t have a sense of mortality awareness-as when we are young it feels like life is forever, and that may be true generally, but not always so. The day’s knowledge put mortality awareness from early adulthood on. Now that I have proceeded to older adulthood, I’m with the Scriptures for today-most of us, young, middle aged and old think and act like we will not die. We just keep on accumulating,staying as we are, and taking life for granted What teaches us that life on this planet is not a given but a gift that is not permanent, are our experiences with death and loss and the threat of death. This can make us aware, deeply aware at any age- not in our heads, but deeply within us, in our hearts and in our souls.
Young people who have lost parents or close relatives or dear friends, young adults in the military or anyone living in a war zone, including urban ghettos where bullets fly killing anyone in their haphazard path, unfortunately have as much mortality awareness as anyone who has faced death head on. Those living with cancer and their loved ones as well as those with a range of life taking and life threatening diseases have plenty of mortality awareness. Part of our renewed ministry now is serving those who sit in chemo with Judy or gather in the huge room full of cancer patients waiting for treatment. God will direct and has directed us to those who need God’s love. It helps that we both share the bond. Now that I have faced two cancers, and my partner in life and ministry, Pastor Judy Beaumont is facing a fourth one, we are acutely appreciative of every single moment of every single day. It doesn’t mean that we don’t still waste precious time with other preoccupations and ways of being, but it does mean a major sense of appreciation and thank you. We thank God for our lives and all lives on this earth and gone before us. We thank God for the beauty of this planet and the beauty of ALL of God’s people. We pray to continue in this life and to continue to serve God’s people as much as is possible for us. We have less time for trifling on any level. We have a sense of urgency about love and justice and that includes political decisions that will effect the lives of all in the next few years. If we can we will help people register to vote and we have no tolerance for those who sit home and say they don’t like the candidates. It isn’t about like it is about choosing the best of human/clay vessels to lead in life for all and love, compassion, mercy and inclusion for all. That sense of thanks be to God and urgency for justice is what knowing that our days are numbered and ‘tonight may be the night’ produces. Thanks and tireless service for compassion and justice is the outgrowth of our deep mortality awareness. And that is what the Scriptures ask of us today. “Treasure and become rich in what matters to God” (Luke 12:21). Actively love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community world-wide.
The pictures below are about service and embracing unity in diversity, and justice for all, including for women’s ordination in the church. The first is joining with our RCWP members in Cali, Colombia, including Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia. . The second is RC Priests, Ray Bourgeois, Janice Sevre-Dusynska and Jane Via washing feet as Jesus did on Holy Thursday and the third is the Odie-Ali and Sookdeo family celebrating life.
AND FROM REV. DR. ROBERTA MEEHAN-Anger at Vanity-Let Us Be One
Homily for the 18th Sunday — Cycle C — 31 July 2016
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
This is certainly an interesting reading from Ecclesiastes and definitely a rather famous reading too. Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! That sure is the truth, isn’t it? Cant you just picture old Qoheleth (author of Ecclesiastes) sitting there with a long, oblong face, probably complete with a long, oblong beard, and drooping oblong eyes, and an extended oblong mouth saying, Vanity of vanities?
The first time I wrote a homily on these readings, I was in Australia. Since that was for the First Sunday of August 2001, it was before 9/11. Somehow things changed after 9/11. We all know that. But some of the problems I faced in writing that homily over a decade ago are just the same as the problems I faced in putting together this homily. Maybe they are even more intense now.
I was in Australia doing a speaking tour and I had asked for that particular Sunday because I had a feeling it would be especially meaningful. At the time I had no idea how truly meaningful it would be. When I asked for that Sunday, I had not even looked at the readings!
The theme of our Australian tour was Unity in Diversity. It occurred to me as I started to prepare the homily what Qoheleth (author of Ecclesiastes) said about vanity, that every time we fail to see unity in our diversity we are engaging in vanity. Think about it!
This message had been especially poignant for me because of the people I was traveling with — Ruth Mills, a woman Anglican priest, and Hoan Ribera, a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest. We were definitely an eclectic group! But the message applies to any group. No two people are the same not even identical twins. Can any of us even calculate the diversity found in our world? I dont think so. And yet we are unified by our humanity and by our relation to the divine.
One of the things that struck me as a Catholic occurred when either Ruth or Hoan celebrated the Eucharist. I was not ordained, although I did take my turn leading liturgical celebrations. Is it not Catholic vanity to say that only one of them could be validly consecrating the bread and wine? Is it not Catholic vanity to say that Ruth is not proper matter to be presiding at the Eucharist just because she is female, regardless of whether or not Anglican orders are recognized by Rome?
I am angered by our vanity. I was angered back then and today I am even more angered. Look at some of these recent rulings. Pedophilia (which, granted, is one of the most heinous of crimes) is still only worthy of a slap on the wrist (or an occasional police report) but womens ordination is now considered to be a sacrilege. Womens ordination is a crime worthy of excommunication because it defiles a sacrament. This is a new ruling. Pedophilia, which destroys the lives and souls of the victims, is a moral sin but it is not serious enough to warrant excommunication. But, womens ordination is not simple disobedience but is a sacrilege because the female body (being a second class creation) defiles the sacrament.
I am angered by the vanity.
And another statement from recent times comes from the Vicar of the Diocese of Rome. He is urging gay priests to step out of the closet and leave the priesthood. Can you believe the arrogance? Well, Benedict XVI would definitely get his smaller, purer church!
I am angered by the vanity by the arrogance, by the self-righteousness.
Think back to the theme of unity in diversity. We are as diverse as the stars and we are as unified as the stardust!
Colossians today tells us that if we are raised with Christ, we should seek what is above. So, why don’t we? What is above is not the diversity of our petty rules. The diversity of our petty rules is vanity. The diversity of all of creation is unity and what is above with Christ ids the unity of all of creation striving for oneness with the Creator. Our hair splitting and our dictating our rules to God is vanity. And how can vanity be what is above?
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells us, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
So I have been sitting in my virtual pew meditating on the Eucharist, a feast that was given for the unity of all. And I have been horrified by the greed of our churches. Yes, our churches are rich. Some not in money but richness is not limited to money. And our churches are greedy. Our churches say that all things are theirs and that even that which comes from another church ultimately comes from one church. Our churches are filled with the vanity of self-righteousness. Our churches are filled with the sense that they possess the way. Maybe they do. But is it not greed and vanity to say that only one way is valid?
I can accept the only one way concept as a valid answer to the vanity and greed of self-effacing righteousness only if that one way is emanating from God, only if that one way is extending from heaven and enveloping the earth. I cannot accept that pompous vanity that says the only one way originates on earth and encompasses heaven.
I cannot say that my eyes have been opened by these Eucharistic experiences. But, I can say that my heart has been pierced and my mind has become swollen with tears because our vanity our attitude of we are right and you are wrong has so totally corrupted the message of Jesus the Christ.
Despite what we say, we do not possess Christ in the sense of our ideologies greedily protecting God from the onslaughts of the heretics who do not split hairs the same as we do. We do, however, possess Christ in the sense that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Christ is in all of us. That is ALL of us. In our magnificent diversity, we are all unified in Christ. We do not have a monopoly on Christ and our lives do not consist in an ecclesiastic monopoly on the ministry of our mandates to love and serve.
Vanity of vanities, indeed! How dare we set rules to appease our vanity and foster our greed and dictate that we alone are right. Let us be one. Let the ecumenism of our celebrations image the unity that Christ pleaded for all of us. The things the churches have presumed actually belong to God and not to us. Let us each erase our greed and our vanity and let us reach out to each other in love and let us all be one, unified in our diversity and not torn apart by the vanity of it.
— Roberta M Meehan, DMin
THANKS BE TO GOD !