In the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading is from the Book of Ecclesiastes (1:2, 2:21-23). Vanity or hebel (Hebrew) repeated six times literally translated as “breath” or “vapor.” Therefore, Qoheleth, the author of this Book uses “vanity” to refer to things in life that are transient, transitory, fleeting, and insubstantial. For this author, riches, power, pleasures are worthless and empty. Only God gives meaning to life.
The second reading is from the Book of Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11. Saint Paul was intent on explaining how the fact of salvation should be evident in the believer’s daily existence. In baptism, the faithful already have a share in the risen life of Christ; we have “been raised up in company with Christ” (v.1) It follows then that every aspect of human existence –moral, social, intellectual, should reflect that doctrinal fact. Our new life in Christ calls us to keep our focus on heavenly things, to cast aside all sinful things, and to be detached from earthly things.
In the Gospel according to Luke 12:13-21, Jesus seems to be answering Qoheleth in the first reading. Someone asks Jesus to be the arbiter between him and his brother. Jesus refuses to comment but uses the situation to give a strong warning about the danger of spending one’s life amassing material possessions. The rich man in the Gospel lived his life with little concern for the things of God. The rich fool saw himself as independent and not in need of God. In the end, all of his efforts mean nothing. Jesus wants his disciples to be wary of the seductive nature of material wealth which can alienate us from God, and to seek spiritual wealth which guarantees eternal life.