In today’s first and third readings, Qoheleth and Jesus excoriate the vain quest for false values.
They tell us different ways how the endless pursuit of wealth, pleasure, and power is, in the end, both self-defeating and soul-killing. Even the quest for bare necessities and security can blind people to the true and lasting values life has to offer. It is especially heart-wrenching to view the grief and suffering of ordinary people whose modest homes and life savings are wiped out in the sudden fury of fire flood, and warfare. To hear them speaking about going on, resisting the forces of greed and violence is truly a sign of hope. There is a better way.
Similarly, although just as forcefully, the reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians condemns the folly of vain and often self-destructive goals. But he also extols the true values of a life worth living. “Set your hearts on the higher things.”
In many respects the world today is becoming more difficult to navigate, not least because of the disasters people themselves create. The threat and actual consequences of global climate change and the peril of war have never been so pressing, not least in an era of economic downturn and new challenges to global health.
The choices we have to make in the near future will be difficult, but necessary on a scale never witnessed before. The fate of the world now lies in our hands as it never has before. Clarifying our values and resolutely pursuing life-affirming goals is now the only way forward.
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. —H. L. Mencken