Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 31, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings focus on “vanity” – its threats and remedies.
Often, we think of vanity as a physical emotion – that Narcissistic self-absorption that keeps us in front of a mirror for inordinate amounts of time. Our culture promotes this kind of vanity by working endlessly to convince us that without certain products we are “not enough” on our own.
Historically, this kind of rhetoric was directed primarily toward women, spawning a nearly $500 billion global cosmetic market! But men are catching up! The men’s market is forecasted to reach nearly $30 billion by 2023.
Several years ago, while flying home from a business trip, I was seated across from two young women. As we approached home, the one nearest me began to prepare for landing. She initiated an elaborate cosmetic ritual that involved no fewer than ten brushes plus an array of tubes and compacts. At first, it struck me really funny. Then I realized how very sad it was.
This maturing child was no more than eighteen. She was naturally beautiful with the vigor of youth. But she had obviously spent a lot of money and time not believing in her natural beauty.
Society considers vanity as a kind of pride and pomposity. I think just the opposite. I think vanity is really fear, self-dissatisfaction, anxiety and pain because something has convinced us that we are inadequate.
Vanity damages souls as well as bodies. It makes us behave in greedy, self-absorbed and careless ways toward our neighbors. It makes us pretend we are more than we think we are. It saps us of the strength to be generous, trusting, honest and hopeful.
Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us to get over this kind of vanity:
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
What if that sweet girl on Flight 419 had been able to look in her mirror and see the image of her Creator? What if we could all do that? How might we spend our time and money differently if we were convinced of how beautiful we – and every creature – are to God?
Poetry: a repeat poem which is well worth repeating:
The Divine Image William Blake To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love All pray in their distress; And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness. For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love Is God, our father dear, And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love Is Man, his child and care. For Mercy has a human heart, Pity a human face, And Love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress. Then every man, of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays to the human form divine, Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. And all must love the human form, In heathen, Turk, or Jew; Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell There God is dwelling too.
Music: How Could Anyone Ever Tell You – Shaina Noll
I have added two versions of this beautiful song which never fails to leave me misty-eyed. Let God sing it to you in your prayer today.