Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
I have worked hard in my life, as many of you have. I have had goals for which I have sacrificed many things to achieve. One of my greatest fears is of finding out that all my work and effort amounted to nothing. Imagine building something at great cost and effort, and then having it completely destroyed. Or imagine having a million dollars, but then discovering you do not have a good use for it, except to spend it on yourself. Vanity. Imagine working on something for years and the seeing it was for nothing. Useless. Useless. A complete waste. These thoughts frustrate me.
People do useless things all the time.
I’ve heard that one of the meanings of the Hebrew word for “vanities” is the word “bubble”. We can see a soap bubble float up in the air. It rises and we are fascinated by it’s shininess and gleam. We follow it as it floats through the air. As we focus in on it, “poof”; it disappears. There is nothing left.
Jesus told a parable of a rich man who sought to store up his riches, saying to himself,
… “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
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?’
This man’s riches were his “bubble”. He was hypnotized by his bubble. Suddenly, it was not the most important thing. His life was more important, and he had not paid attention to what was more important.
People do useless things all the time.
The problem is that they fail to pay attention to the most important things.
For example, we allow our children to imitate us with our fascination with cell phones and we, and they spend too much time looking into their smart phone screens. Is this “smart”, or is it a “bubble”.
We permit our children to waste their school years. They complain about homework. They become disinterested in school. They waste their time, drop out or fail to get good jobs. Useless. Bubble.
They get tattoos and body piercings. Useless. Bubble. They seek meaning in drugs and alcohol and sex outside of marriage. Useless. Bubble. “Pop”. Gone. Waste.
Often we make our “bubbles” more important than the things that really matter, like love and family and faith and life.
Or, adults have children, then focus on their careers or addictions and fail to raise their children by being involved in their lives, encouraging them to distinguish between “bubbles” and real things.
What is divorce? Isn’t it the result of distraction. Adults marry, and then get distracted by other “bubbles” that appear more important. They fail to remember that they married their “biggest babies” who will need attention and love and nurturing for the rest of their married lives. Children arrive, and these new children become more important than their biggest babies, their first babies, their spouses. If they spent their time making sure “Baby Number One” was always “Baby Number One”, their marriage would probably not end like a popped bubble.
In our parish we have attempted to provide alternatives to life’s “bubbles”. We have attempted to provide “Hope” for things that are real. We provide the sacraments and ways to live out our sacramental life in preparation for eternal life.
We provide programs for spiritual learning and growth. We provide opportunities for good parenting with focus on our spouses and children, like our award-winning Scout programs, and our Catholic education and school programs. We brought in the sisters, Discipulas de Jesus, to provide examples of living life for God. I hope we will see some of our own daughters begin to consider religious life, serving others.
St. Paul tells us,
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.
St. Paul is talking about living our sacramental lives, with Christ. If we do that, we will not be living lives of vain bubbles.
Paul tells us,
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, …..
That new self is life in the sacraments; anticipating and preparing for life in the Kingdom of God. Don’t miss Mass. Receive Holy Communion as often as possible. Go to Confession regularly. With the Grace of God, and our trust in Him, everything else will fall in place.
The goal is to have the right compass. If we follow bubbles, we will find ourselves lost, and all will have been in vain.