… All things are vanity! For what profit comes to a person from … anxiety of heart…? (Ecclesiastes)
If today you hear God’s voice harden not you hearts. (Responsorial Psalm refrain 95:8)
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. (Paul)
Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. (Jesus through Luke)
Words of wisdom from today’s readings.
Anxieties of Heart
Some years ago I was with a small group talking to a US senator. The senator said that one of the problems in our country is that too many families are living on the edge financially, just making ends meet. One small bump in the road (death, an illness, loss of job, divorce…) can lead to financial ruin or bankruptcy.
He was right. I find most anxieties are based in reality. These realties go back to Adam and Eve and the loss of paradise (Eden). Loss of security, control, life, health, finances, even affection are real and will happen to us.
In the Old Testament, a number of books including Ecclesiastes and Psalms are called Wisdom Literature. The Wisdom Literature is not based on Revelation from God, but the expression of human experiences of God working in their lives. Thus when the Psalmist says, “Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God.” (Psalm 90). It is not God praising himself, but the Psalmist praising God.
Likewise, in Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth is looking back on his life and warning us that the anxieties of life controlling our decisions are often signs of vanity. He is warning his listeners the importance of life, God is with us, and life goes on. Remember God is with us.
Jesus and Paul are telling us the same thing from different perspectives. Jesus warns us about making possessions more important that people. Paul reminds us that the world and God are bigger than what we see around us.
When Paul speaks of what is from above what is he talking about? I think he is talking about faith, hope, love, shalom or peace, community, and wisdom that comes from God. These are the things from above. These are the things that are important.
I believe we receive these six things in two ways. First, we receive these things as a gift without even trying. Faith is based on experience. So if today you hear God’s voice harden not your heart. It is our response to hearing God’s voice or experiencing God’s action that determines if the gifts of faith, hope, love, peace, community and wisdom are placed on our hearts.
The second way is through prayer. Prayer does not take all bad things away from us, but it helps us endure. When Jesus prayed, “Father, take this cup away…” (Lk. 22:42), he still had to face the crucifixion and death. Over the long run good prayer gives us faith, hope, love, peace, community, and wisdom. Over the long run good prayer…