Archive | July, 2019

Vanity of vanities

30 Jul

The book of Ecclesiastes has the phrase “… Vanity of vanities…” (in many translations) which must make us stop and think. The phrase is translated variously: “sheer unreasonableness”, “nothing makes sense”, “it is useless, useless”, “Smoke, nothing but smoke.” The phrase is a superlative, where we might say completely or utter; it is the same with the phrase ‘king of kings’ which means the greatest of all kings. For ‘vanity’ here we could use adjectives such as fleeting, ephemeral, futile, vaporous, senseless. The repetition expresses a superlative and it could be preceded by “utterly” or “most.” The Hebrew word is related to wind – something like the breath we breathe out which might momentarily be visible but soon lost in the whole atmosphere.

The opening few verses are like an introduction to the rest of the work attributed to some wise ‘preacher’.  I like to think that the overall theme might be not to put too much value on what we do: not to over-value the good things we do, the wisdom of the things we know and understand, or (for us today) the conclusions of science we accept and live by, or even the rituals, regulations and doctrines of the religion we follow, or the customs we are brought up to respect … We must do what good we can in our lives and for others and for the world we live in, but, I think we must not be rigid or certain about anything: just live the best we can, respecting others with different attitudes and ways of life.

It is so easy to be sure of what you think, believe and practice. But that confidence must not make one scorn different beliefs and practices that others have. At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes the editor writes “… the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.


God’s glory

23 Jul

We don’t so much use the word glory but are more used to the adjective glorioous.  The idea of this adjective today would be expressed by most of us with fantastic, fab. terrific, awesome or we might just say (or blog) Wow!  I might apply it to a game, a goal, a song, a tweet .. you can think of examples yourself.  These examples don’t immediately strike us as religious but… We cathoics at our sunday service, just before the central, main part of it, say or sing “Holy holy holy, Lord God of hosts, (both) heaven and earth are full of your glory.”  I think we can get too used to these words we regularly hear, and I think that they are sometimes disguised by the general style of language in the context of our worship.  But they are saying (we say or even sing) that earth is full of the glory of God.

Yes ,we might think our countryside is fabulous, the mountains and burns are dramatic, the things in museums are amazing, some of the people we live among are really lovely people…  All creation reflects the glory of God, except, of course, the things that are not what God wants, things we and others do that we shouldn’t; and there are still parts of our universe that God has not yet finished creating.  But we still need to remind ourselves  when we meet other peole and see all we see, that God’s glory fills all heaven and earth.


God’s glory fills all heaven and earth.


16 Jul

The first reading for the 16th Sunday Cycle C (Genesis 18) reminds us and reminded the Jews (if they needed it) of the significance of meals. You have to go back in time before there were takeaways and street food.  For the nomadic tribes in the early bible stories and even for the settled peoples in towns and villages, meals were a family get-together highlighted for the Jews each Sabbath and especially at Passover.  Today there has been a transformation and some sense of community may have been lost, but people still meet together at home, in restaurants (or pubs).

Nowadays we also have the folk meeting for a coffee or other drink; a meeting that often carries with it the idea of friendship etc. that the meal would have had.  In the stories that we have in the Gospels there are accounts of meals (notably the marriage fest at Cana and the feeding of thousands out in the countryside as well as the last supper.  It is Luke who relates the most meals taken by Jesus and these give us an incite into their significance.  They are a time for showing concern for others with discussions, feet washing and careful seating arrangements.  If Jesus’ public ministry was about three years then He would have had about 1,000 meals then.

These meals or token meals are very significant for human beings.  Any meal or meeting for ‘coffee’ are an expression of the interpersonal care that we have and should have.  Christians also believe that there are three persons in God, who interact and work together in our world.  This is captured in a famous artwork by Rublev, often seen as the a depiction of the Trinity, but more likely related to Abraham’s meal of the first reading (see above).  So let us be sensitive to this deeper meaning of our human interactions!


The good person

9 Jul

Some people think that people who are religious are good people; some people might chiefly think that it is Christians who are really good. Within the Catholic church you might expect the priest and those who regularly go to church to be the good people. On the other hand, people often classify others as troublesome or unsuitable people – even trouble makers. They might think this of loud and noisy folk, of scruffy homeless people, maybe even of foreigners or possibly of the very rich and ‘respectable’ business people.

At the time of Jesus these attitudes might well have been held by some Jews especially those in important positions in religion – like priests or teachers. It was the Romans (occupying the land) and the Samaritans (not proper Jews) who were disliked by ‘good’ people. There is a parable attributed to Jesus usually called ‘the good Samaritan.’

Maybe I should examine myself and my attitude to others, because I think of myself as a respectable citizen and even as knowledgeable about theology. Maybe even you need to examine yourself – how do you regard other people?

God’s parental love

2 Jul

It is almost impossible to have any idea of just how much God loves us. Like a loving mother with her new offspring, He really loves and cares for us. Even those times when we seem to disappoint Him – he is anxious to forgive us and hopes we will let Him love us lovingly again. Realising this to some extent, we should feel honoured, proud and moved to be as lovable as we can, as often as possible. As He loves us and our world, so we should try to love all we meet and the world we live in. This is God’s attitude to the whole of the universe, loving each according to its kind – loving what it is, from galaxies to micro waves… And it calls on us to respond in love.

I tried to express this in poetry once…

God the start and prop of all,
Everything always, his wish, his idea.
Holding and enlight’ning, throughout our time,
Macro and nano, the mighty and the mere.

We, best creatures, creative and freer,
Our selfish bugs and blunders repeat.

He loves and parents us, with hope & plans,
The maker and mender visions it complete.

So God, my loving parent, I entreat,
Help me show your love, now and here!