We will start with the reading from Qoheleh who says: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” Even if it may sound like a moral judgment it is rather warning. Vanity means that something is passing, quickly disappearing, easily fading. Now in Poland we have holidays, some of the holidaymakers are enjoying themselves on the shore of the Baltic Sea, near lakes or rivers. If there is a bit of beach not covered by towels and blankets I am sure that children are building sand castles now. As we know sometimes they can spend the whole day working on it. Then a big wave or an absentminded person comes and the whole structure is gone. We can easily picture a child crying over the damaged castle but we know that the castle wasn’t meant to last. Vanity of vanities! The parents could tell the child that, if they knew the Bible well. We who are praying in this church instead of sunbathing near water, can picture sand castles there not to envy the holidaymakers but to face ourselves with reality. Our bank accounts, our jobs, our houses, companies etc. are like those sand castles. They aren’t meant to last. If we believe that they will we are like the children on the beach. We can cry and blame God and all the saints for not protecting it but God and all the saints are like the parents of the children on the beach and saying: “C’mon, it wasn’t to last. That’s just vanity. Easily passing and fading!” Hopefully children coming from their holidays will learnt the lesson of the fading sand castles. Hopefully as we continue listening to Jesus and staying near him we can learn the same lesson about the material goods we have around us.
The second message of this Sunday we find in the Letter to Colossians and in the Luke Gospel. St Paul writes about some things we need to kill in us and among them is “greed, which – as he goes on – is the same thing as worshiping a false god.” As we know the first commandment says: “I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.” When St Paul talks about worshipping he doesn’t mean lighting a candle for god, saying a few sentences of prayer or giving a donation but worshipping is about centering your life on something or somebody. Just think what is on your mind when you wake up in the morning, when you take a lunch break and when you go to bed at night. To help us to reflect on that I would like to use the question which the wealthy man from Jesus’ story asked himself “What am I to do?” as it is a brilliant question.
If every morning you ask yourself: “What am I to do to please God today?” if at your lunch break you ask yourself: “What am I to do to bring the people I am dealing with today closer to God? If going to bed you ask yourself: “What am I to do to give glory to God?” It means that that you worship God, that your life is centered on God. It means that you have placed yourself with trust in the arms of your heavenly Father.
Now, I am not saying that we should stop working and earning to support ourselves and our families. It would be selfish and against the commandment God gave to Adam and Eve: “Fill the earth and subdue it.” However remember if you think that by having money you can be in control you are very much mistaken. You cannot be in control because of money, it simply means that money is already in control of you.” A clear example we have in the case of the brothers from the Gospel read today. One stole from his brother because he wanted to have more but the second brother had a similar problem. He was upset because his brother was quicker. Probably he would have done the same if he had had more time. Both of them were controlled by money. What Jesus offers not only to the devastated brother whose inheritance was stolen is this: “Don’t ask me to be a judge between you and your brother but ask me to change your heart so that being thrown into this unjust situation you can ask the big question of the wealthy man from the story: “What am I to do?”
“What am I to do to forgive my brother the unjust he did to me?
What am I to do to make peace between us?
What I am to do to get my brother back rather than to get back my money?”
They aren’t easy questions but believe me if you ask Jesus he will give you the right answers. Apart from that these questions are already the answer to our first question: “Is money good or bad?” It depends what it does to your heart.