5 August 2007 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiastes 1, 2; 2, 21-23 Vanities
In the episode, “Homer, the Heretic” of The Simpsons, God tells Homer what the meaning of life is, but the one who really wanted to know is the viewer who is left disappointed. Here goes the dialogue:
Homer: God, what’s the meaning of life?
God: Homer, I cant’ tell your that.
Homer: Why not?
God: You’ll find out when you die.
Homer: I can’ wait that long.
God: You can’t wait 6 months?
Homer: No, tell me now…
God: Oh, OK… the meaning of life is … (at this point, the credits start to move. The author said that originally a commercial break would come after this scene to humurous effect.
If you’ve asked the same question in your life as Homer, then, you are not alone. What is the meaning of the things I do? Is the question ‘What is the meaning of life’ still meaningful?
The readings today has the theme of vanity. Ecclesiastes declares that those under the sun are absolutely vain. Anything that is worldly has temporary value, including our excessive care on how we look. It should be clarified, though, that biblical vanity does not only mean our ‘self-pride’ or overly conscious of how we appear to others. The understanding of vanity in the bible is beyond just merely indulging ourselves: it refers to the emptiness, senselessness, absurdity, fleeting, or meaninglessness in life. From the word, senseless (hevel in Hebrew) meaning vapor or breath, the author (Qoheleth) used it metaphorically. In the eyes of eternity, anything of earth and limited by time, is vain. Therefore, something is vain if it does not bring ultimate value. It is not a condemnation of things of this world; because many temporary things in life we need.
There are many ways in which we find the ultimate meaning in life. Paolo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, it tells us that the meaning in life is found and experienced in our individual journeys which we take in our lives. Others would embark reading the Book of Genesis, and discover certain areas of concern: the propagation of humanity, the personal care and popular respect for the human race, “Be fruitful and multiply” as in the Old Testament sets the mood against vanity. There are others, however, find meaning in their achievements and their successes. Others would affirm that one finds meaning when one discovers their love of their life; or in having a personal relationship with God. Therefore, the parable in the Gospel tells us to value the things that are eternal.
Perhaps today, we shall look at the things we do: how many of the things we have are not necessary in our lives? And how many things we do are used for a different purpose except that which it was first created?