Daily Homily: 'Vanity of Vanities!' Says the Preacher

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17bc
Luke 9:7-9

The author of Ecclesiastes, known as Qoheleth or the Preacher “looks at the world almost exclusively from the standpoint of human reason, experience, and observation” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, 66). The Preacher recognizes that God is Lord over the world, but does not examine man’s relationship with God in great detail. “From this limited perspective, in which faith is often left out of the picture, the author can only conclude that everything is ‘vanity’ (1:2; 12:8). One could say that Ecclesiastes reveals the problem to which of the Bible offers the solution, namely, that life is meaningless if death is our ultimate destiny and if man has no hope for happiness that reaches beyond the grave” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, 66).

Saint Bonaventure takes a different point of view, and says that the three books attributed to Solomon represent three stages of spiritual growth: Proverbs teaches us how to live wisely in the world, Ecclesiastes teaches contempt for worldly things, and the Song of Songs teaches us love for heavenly things. (see Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, 67).

Our First Reading is taken from the prologue to Qoheleth’s book, which announces that man’s work and labors are in vain. The Preacher is meditating on the cycle of life and the cycle of nature. Generations of men come and go, the sun rises and sets, the wind comes and goes, the rivers rush to the sea yet are continuously filled only to rush back again. Everything seems only to return to where it started. The Preacher also contemplates human history and sees it repeating itself: what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun (1:9). Finally, the Preacher wonders who will remember what was done in the past and concludes that not even things to come will be remembered.

The answer to this pessimistic view of life, of the world, of history is found in Jesus Christ and his revelation. It is true that nature is cyclical, but human history is not. It is linear and culminates in Jesus Christ. Everything leads up to the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. This is something new and after this event everything is different. The Kingdom of God is inaugurated and awaits its definitive establishment at the end of time.

As well, our lives united to Christ are not in vain. We can give glory to God through our words and actions. What we do for the praise and glory of God will be remembered in heaven for all eternity.

Jesus Christ gives us reason to hope. He has open up for us the way to salvation. We can follow his path and enter into communion with him. We do not seek Christ like Herod. Herod was perplexed by Jesus’ mighty deeds and was curious. He sought to see him only to see a miraculous sign. The people also begin to wonder: Who is Jesus? Is is another prophet like Elijah or John?

Each of us are asked today by Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” Am I just another prophet, rabbi, or teacher? Am I the Christ? Am I the Son of God? Hopefully we respond like Peter “You are the Christ of God” and like Thomas “My Lord and my God”. Not only is all history centered on Christ, but our individual and family lives should also be centered on Christ.

Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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