Sep 24 2020 Reflection
Thursday 24 September 2020
First Reading: ECCL 1:2-11
In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
PS 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 AND 17BC
Gospel Reading: LK 9:7-9
Today’s Note: Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.
All things are vanity! (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Today’s Old Testament reading comes from one of the great pieces of world literature. Like Wisdom and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes contains wise sayings assembled by an unknown author. But unlike those books, Ecclesiastes makes a dramatic declaration about the futility of human efforts: all is vanity (1:2)! Everything we attempt is placed on the scale and found wanting. In fact, it’s not until the end of the book that Qoheleth, the nickname the author gives himself, gives us a lesson to take from all this despair. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” he urges, lest we live for fleeting pleasures and face judgment for our disobedience (12:1, 13-14).
Let’s see what this puzzling book is about so that we can be ready to listen to what God might say to us as we pray through these passages the next few days.
Ecclesiastes offers wisdom gathered over many years. Qoheleth warns the young not to prize too highly the transient rewards that seem so important in life. Kingdoms rise and fall (and, we might say, corporations), and every one of us will die. So nothing that we gain will really remain ours in the end.
But in the midst of Qoheleth’s litany on the futility of all things, there is one constant that we can count on, one thing that gives true wisdom and a firm foundation: God. He is the “one shepherd,” the one source of true, lasting wisdom, who will reward every one of us for what we have done (Ecclesiastes 12:11, 14).
This wisdom certainly still holds today. Ecclesiastes warns us against trying to replace God with any other source of meaning. “If I get my PhD,” “if I get this promotion,” “if I find the right spouse,” then I will be happy and find purpose. Yet none of these things, no matter how good or satisfying or noble, can replace God. “All things are vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Let’s open our hearts to the wise warnings of Ecclesiastes these next few days. Let’s allow the enduring wisdom of God contained in this book to wake us up. And let’s keep in mind the prayer of St. Teresa of Ávila:
“All things pass, God remains. He who has God lacks nothing. God alone is enough.”