Vanity of vanities!

Posted by on August 1, 2016

'The_Visit_of_the_Queen_of_Sheba_to_King_Solomon',_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_Edward_Poynter,_1890,_Art_Gallery_of_New_South_WalesThe first reading from this past weekend is perhaps one of the most famous passages of scripture. “Vanity of vanities; all things are vanity!” In other words, all things are useless, passing away; all our actions are futile, empty. If the story ended there, it would be a pretty depressing one! But we know, of course, that the real point of the reading is this: if we view things from a merely earthly perspective, then everything is useless. Apart from God, nothing has value, nothing has meaning. All of the laboring and working in which we engage as human beings—unless we begin it with God, beg God to sustain it, and deliver its fruits into God’s hands—is nothing more than vanity. This means that everything we do, from the most mundane to the most backbreaking, can have infinite meaning, infinite value, if undertaken with a view to God’s grace. Human acts—as insignificant as they seem when viewed from an earthly perspective—can become the occasions of the most profound encounters with God. Our days may seem, sometimes, full of nothing but sorrow and grief. But with God’s grace, even sorrowing and grieving can become the pathways to joy and rejoicing.

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