18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 2nd Reading: Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial: Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17 Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
Experiencing the Presence of the Lord in Our Day-to-Day Lives
Vanity of vanities! (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Ecclesiastes is one of the most puzzling books in the Bible. From the very beginning, the author, Qoheleth, uncovers something we don’t like to think about: the seeming futility of life. Material pleasures don’t satisfy. Justice is rare. Death makes our accomplishments seem pointless. We feel trapped in an endless cycle, and “nothing is new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
But far from sounding like a disgruntled old man, Qoheleth is a brave teller of uncomfortable truths. He is aware that people may not like what he has to say, but he doesn’t want anyone to ignore reality.
Qoheleth is doing more than painting a gloomy picture. His book describes a world that is closed off to God. He is showing us what life would look like without a Father in heaven who promises to hold us in the palm of his hand. But then he ends his book by telling us that we do have such a Father. “Remember your Creator,” he says, “before the evil days come” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Keep the memory of God alive so that you will be able to weather the bad times—because they will surely come. Never forget who God is and all that he has done. Never forget what he has done for you.
This is sound advice, but now there is more to the story. Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything! He has opened the gates of heaven, and we can now experience God, not just in our memory, but alive and active in our hearts. We can experience the presence of Christ, along with his comfort, his healing power, and his wisdom in our day-to-day lives. So where Qoheleth would have said, “Remember God!” you can say, “Yes, and experience Jesus!”
Brothers and sisters, life is not futile. It may be wild and dangerous at times, but Jesus has conquered death and dispelled gloom. His promises are not vain, and his power is real. Reach out to him today, and let him show you that all is not vanity any longer.
“Praise to you, Jesus, for conquering death and for opening heaven!”
Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion:
1. The first reading begins with these words: Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! It continues with these words: Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.
- In spite of the less than positive tone of the first reading, what important message do you think the author of Ecclesiastes is trying to convey? Do you agree with the reading’s message? Why or why not?
- Do you believe that without the Lord in a person’s life, All things are vanity? Why?
2. The responsorial psalm opens with these words: You turn man back to dust, saying, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. You make an end of them in their sleep; the next morning they are like the changing grass, Which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades. It ends with these words: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O Lord How long? Have pity on your servants! Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us!
- In what ways are the opening words of the responsorial psalm similar to those of the first reading, especially in speaking in a less than positive tone about our earthly life? In what ways are they different?
- What important lesson do you think the psalmist wants us to learn from the seemingly insignificance of our life in the opening words, as compared to the gracious care of the LORD our God described in the ending words?
- How does do these words relate to your life as a Christian?
3. The second reading begins with these words: Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. It continues with these words: Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.
- The second reading seems to have two parts. How would you describe the differences between the two parts?
- In this reading, what does St. Paul say should be happening in our daily lives as a result of being raised with Christ, and as a result of having died in Christ?
- What steps can you take to make the words of this reading a greater reality in your life?
4. In the Gospel reading, Jesus speaks these words: Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the rich man who only cares about storing up possessions for himself, so he can live a life where he can rest, eat, drink, be merry. The reading ends with these words: But God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
- Why do you think God said to the rich man, You fool?
- Why is it more important to have heavenly riches compared to earthly riches?
- How does your heavenly bank account compare to your earthly bank?
- What can you do as a Christian that can increase your heavenly riches – not only individually but also with others?
5. The meditation is a reflection on the first reading and this verse: Vanity of vanities! (Ecclesiastes 1:2) It opens with these words: “Ecclesiastes is one of the most puzzling books in the Bible. From the very beginning, the author, Qoheleth, uncovers something we don’t like to think about: the seeming futility of life.” The meditation goes on to say that “Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything!” It ends with these words: “Brothers and sisters, life is not futile. It may be wild and dangerous at times, but Jesus has conquered death and dispelled gloom. His promises are not vain, and his power is real. Reach out to him today, and let him show you that all is not vanity any longer.”
- The meditation emphasizes that “Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything!” when it comes to what can sometimes seem like the “futility of life.” Why is it so?
- What do the ending words of the meditation mean to you?
- When it comes to your relationship with Jesus, what additional steps can you take to “Reach out to him today, and let him show you that all is not vanity any longer”?
Take some time now to pray and thank the Lord for conquering death and opening the “gates of heaven” through his cross and resurrection. Use the prayer below from the end of the meditation as a starting point.
“Praise to you, Jesus, for conquering death and for opening heaven!”