The words of today’s readings are sobering, indeed. In the first reading from Ecclesiastes the author portrays all of life’s endeavors as futile. What we have will be taken a way and given to someone else who did not earn it.
In the Gospel we hear about a man who has accumulated great wealth. He has to build new barns to store his abundance. He plans to sit back and relax and enjoy life, a natural desire for our human condition, but the Lord warns of his impending demise and the loss of all his wealth.
Our psalm proclaims, You turn men back to dust and you make an end of them in their sleep. These are not encouraging words for us who are burdened by worldly responsibilities and who can’t escape them except by death. How do we follow Paul’s words in the second reading when he says, Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly?
We respond repeatedly in today’s Psalm: If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. That’s a big IF. The world and all its noise is persistently trying to drown out the voice of God, our Creator. The demands of life are ever present to us, attempting to divert our attention from the things that are above. IF we hear God’s voice, why would we harden our hearts or, perhaps, is it a hardness of heart that prevents us from hearing Him?
It’s an age old conundrum. We are spiritual beings trapped in a physical world – or so it seems. If we ponder the words of St. Paul – Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God – then the words of the Gospel antiphon make sense: Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Poverty of the heart keeps it open to hearing God’s voice. It also keeps us detached, in a spiritual way, from worldly things while still being in the world. When we think of what is above we can live in this world without being burdened by it, in the words of St. Ignatius: ad maiorem Dei gloriam!