A Roman Poet named Horace has a life aphorism, “Carpe diem,” translated by “Seize the day.” The saying is usually used to encourage someone to make the most of the present rather than dwelling on the future. This invitation to focus only on immediate success and fulfillment in life has brought different understandings of happiness, particularly the one themed Hedonism, which is the belief that pleasure, or the absence of pain, is the most important principle in determining the morality of a potential course of action. This has led to the moral relativism that characterizes our world today.
Today’s readings take us to a different direction and different level of understanding the meaning of our life. They remind us of the purpose of life. Why did God create human beings? Saint Paul said that we are not citizens of the world. “We are citizens of heaven…” (Philippians 3:20-21). The same truth comes from the mouth of Christ in his priestly prayer in the gospel of John when he says, “I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world” (John 17:15-16).
Two things to consider here. For one we are reminded that life is a journey on earth; and as such it should be oriented towards things which make us experience the ascent to the highest joy and happiness, which is communion with the Lord. Secondly, that we are meant to strive to live up the foretaste of what we shall be here on earth. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is already here although not yet fulfilled. We are invited to labor for what is above because all is vanity here on earth. Concern for temporal materials will always be cause of distress and anxiety.
The first reading from the book of Qoheleth is a constant reminder is given to us today as antidot to the culture of jouissance that characterized our world today. Happiness is a function of the social rank we hold or our possession. We are reminded that material possessions have a mission and purpose in God’s plan; that they are means to help us strengthen our relationship with God and to spread God’s love. They are not an end on their own. True richness is to be found in a personal relationship with God when we strive to seek the One who is above. This will make us claim not only what we have but who we are as belonging to Christ. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and everything else will be given to you besides.
At this table, God invites us to share in eternal food which is more valuable than any other food. Whereas material food and possessions can give us a certain level of joy and relief, they will not give us eternal happiness. It is only in and with God that we will find true food that sustains our life.
And let us continue to pray for one another and for our parish family.