(18thOrdinary Sunday: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2: 21-23; Col. 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21)
All the readings today caution us against greed and trusting in our possessions. St. Paul succinctly summarizes these thoughts: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
And yet, half of the message of Our Lady of La Salette is very much concerned with the things of earth: worm-eaten walnuts, rotting grapes, blighted, but potentially abundant, wheat and potatoes and, worst of all, the death of young children.
She could hardly tell her people not to worry about these things. She wept with them. What mattered to them mattered to her. These things are not vanity.
At the same time, she points out her people’s failure to think of what is above. Long before the famine began, they appear to have had little use for God. Religion had become the domain of “a few elderly women.”
In today’s Psalm we pray, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” This means living in the presence of God, not in constant fear of death. Two chapters after the “vanity of vanities” in Ecclesiastes, we read that there is “A time to give birth, and a time to die.”
The Beautiful Lady knows that, between birth and death, there is plenty in life to be afraid of; but, close to her, we need no longer be afraid. Under her guidance, we can achieve wisdom of heart. And yet, it is no contradiction to say she will teach us the fear of the Lord.
Sirach 1:12 is one of three verses in the Bible that tell us, “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” But read the whole chapter, and you will learn that fear of the Lord is also wisdom’s fullness, garland, and root; that it “warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days;” it is “glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown.”
What could be more desirable?
The Beautiful Lady’s first words, “Come closer, my children, don’t be afraid,” set the tone for everything that follows. As we read each portion of the message, however distressing, we should continue to hear, “Don’t be afraid... don’t be afraid...” This will help us think calmly and peacefully of what is above.