Sunday 18th Week in Ordinary Time Scripture and Reflections

Painting by Jim Janknegt

I am posting early for this Sunday : All the Mass readings  and lots of true riches to stock up your barns here.

  • Reflection on the Gospel on T"he Danger of Riches" from Ron Rolheiser can be read  here.

My reflections (My vanity !!) 

The first reading from Ecclesiastes  gives us the memorable phrase :

"Vanity, Oh Vanity, All is Vanity."  

Vanity, in its modern sense, is a form of self-idolatry, in which one rejects God for the sake of one's own image and so becomes divorced from the grace of God .

This reading exposes one of those dark truths of reality that we in the Western affluent world live with but seem incapable of doing anything about.

As Oscar Wilde said,

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told one is a sinner. Conscience makes egotists of us all.”


We humans are seemingly hardwired for vanity  at least to some extent......

Omnia Vanitas ("All is Vanity"),  originally referred not to obsession with one's appearance,

but to the ultimate fruitlessness of humankind's efforts in this world.

Vanity by Charles Allan Gilbert 
This is the second reading from today's Mass:
Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
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.

Here there is not Greek and Jew,

circumcision and uncircumcision,

barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;

but Christ is all and in all.


Photo by Raymond Voinquel

Two images came to mind as I reflected on this passage;  The Oscar Wilde novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray  and the Myth of Narcissus.

In Wilde's novel Dorian starts as  an innocent youth.The young man Dorian Gray's  physical beauty is his most cherished attribute, and vanity is, as a consequence, his most crippling vice. His mentor Lord Henry claims to value beauty and youth as a virtue above all else. It is this belief, when imparted to Dorian, that drives him to make the wish that ultimately damns him. 
Dorian's fall from grace is the consequence of his decision to embrace vanity - and indeed, all new and pleasurable feelings - as a virtue, at the behest of Lord Henry, his corrupter.He somehow keeps his youthful beauty, but a special painting gradually reveals his inner ugliness to all.
Dorian Gray is the  man who wanted eternal youth, and bartered his soul to get it!
 Under Lord Henry's influence he becomes corrupt, and eventually begins corrupting other youths himself. 

When Dorian realizes that he will keep his youthful appearance regardless of whatever immoral actions he indulges in, he considers himself free of the moral constraints faced by ordinary men. 
He values his physical appearance more than the state of his soul, which is openly displayed by the ever-increasing degradation of the portrait.

This superficial faith in the ultimate value of youth and beauty is therefore the driving mechanism behind his damnation. In this way, The Picture of Dorian Gray may be read as a moralistic tale warning against the dangers of valuing one's appearance too highly, and of neglecting one's conscience. 

The fear that Dorian expresses when viewing the painting, and the emotions that he seeks to escape through sin, drug addiction, and even murder, might be considered an expression of his rage at laying eyes upon his true self.
Dorian, like Narcissus, falls in love with his own image, and is ultimately destroyed by it.Even his attempts at altruism are driven by a desire to improve the appearance of his soul. Throughout the novel, vanity haunts Dorian, seeming to damn his actions before he even commits them; vanity is his original sin.

In addition to Dorian many of the novel's characters are greatly concerned with their reputations. Lord Henry and Basil Hallward both counsel Dorian on how to best preserve his good status in the public eye. When crimes are committed, it is not personal absolution that anyone is concerned with, but whether or not the guilty party will be held responsible by the public.
In this way, each character in the novel possesses an awareness of a split identity: one that is defined by the public, and one that they define themselves. 

The portrait is a literal visualization of Dorian's private self, the state of his soul, 

while Dorian himself looks perpetually young, beautiful, and innocent.

One of the major philosophical questions raised by this novel is that of where to locate the responsibility for a person's misdeeds. 

 I can see in this tale something that relates to the Catholic Church and its obsession with image :the ridiculous return to ornate vestments and overblown language of the proposed revised liturgy,  the frantic  recent initial inadeqate attempts to appoint blame for the corruption in the church  and scandals of sex abuse on the world rather than themselves, the acting out and projection of their rage on women by their stupid alliance of women's ordination as a grave sin alongside sexual abuse  because of their inability to cope and deal with the inherent sickness inside the church hierarchy when they laid eyes on its true self.

It is almost as if the church is still trying to portray itself as a spotless corporate edifice of beauty and truth, wanting to take us back  to some youthful imaginary golden age of the past  but this portrait is a lie and we are told to stop lying to one another !

The vision portrayed that we should take on is not of this earth .

Why can't the Vatican see that this can only be fulfilled by radical change of vision to one where we are:


"to put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator

That means no distinctions guys, between male, female, hetero or homo !!


Some choice quotes on vanity.....






And a suitable one to finish on !!


1 comment:

claire said...

Very good comparison with the Catholic Church. I admire you for spending so much time on what Rome is doing. I seem to find my taste of honey somewhere else. Godde everywhere else but there, maybe.

Thank you though for your strength and passion.

Blessings, hugs.