“All things are vanity!” That’s what today’s first reading from Ecclesiastes tells us. And in this context it means futility. Not a very comforting thought for those of us who work to support their families. We like to think that what we do has purpose. What a downer.
Then Paul tries to snap us out of it. Not ALL things are vanity, he tells the Colossians in our second reading. Just everything on earth. Thanks Paul. That makes me feel a lot better. “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth,” he adds.
That’s hard for us egocentric humans. We like being comfortable. In fact we’re comfortable in the vanity that we can control our comfort. We inherited this trait from Adam and Eve, who believed they could become like God by eating of the tree of knowledge. We’ve been reaching for forbidden fruit ever since, and that has been the cause of most of our wars, starting with Cain vs. Abel. We covet what we don’t have and lose appreciation for what God has blessed us with. We’re spoiled brats.
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” We can almost hear the whine in that guy’s voice as he seeks Jesus’ intervention in today’s gospel reading. Jesus schools him by casting him in his parable about those whose priority is to eat, drink and be merry. The man appears in this scene with Jesus’ Father, who says to this hoarder: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.”
Jesus became familiar with the challenge of teaching people who didn’t appreciate the treasure they already had. A passage we didn’t read today but fits that theme nevertheless is in Mark 6:4: “Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”
Jesus’ words are our inheritance. So why do we keep looking for it in Adam and Eve’s tree?