AD SENSE

25th Week, Thursday, Sept 24

 Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 / Luke 9:7-9

Ecclesiastes talks about human nature: There is nothing new in the whole world. 

 "Children love luxury. They have bad manners... and love to chatter. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents . . . gobble up dainties at the table . . . and are tyrants over their teachers." If you think that was written by a disgruntled adult in our modern times, you're wrong. It was written by a Greek philosopher nearly 2,500 years ago. The philosopher's observation testifies to the truth of today's reading, especially the words "There is nothing new in the whole world." 

**** 

The Book of Ecclesiastes, sometimes called Qoheleth, is part of the Wisdom literature. Its theme is captured in the first verse: everything is vanity—exhaled and empty air. Everything seems to be pointless as life moves in cycles. Tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. Everything is already decided. Nothing we can do can give it any other meaning. If there is meaning to this vast endless cycle of events, it remains hidden to us. Why was Ecclesiastes so pessimistic? One reason may be the times in which it was composed. The great creative period of Israel's history was over. The Jewish people had lost the sense of God speaking to them through the events of history. Here, in exile, God's voice was silent. Ecclesiastes makes no reference to covenant, exodus or deliverance. History had lost its power as revelation. The people turned to the world of nature to see something of God. There, they discovered only the great cosmic cycles of the seasons, years and days. Although we might not share Ecclesiastes' pessimism, it is a lesson in humility for us in that we cannot, in this life, comprehend the full significance of all that occurs in our lives. 

****

Do we tend to get pessimistic and down on life because everything seems to be getting worse? Do we tend to think that things are getting out of hand and God is no longer in confrol of the universe? 

****

In the New Testament, especially Luke's Gospel, we have a different atmosphere from Ecclesiastes. In the New Testament, events are loaded with meaning. God speaks through natural history, world history, Church history and our personal history. We are in an atmosphere that is decidedly noncyclical. In today's Gospel reading, Herod looks for the meaning of Jesus. The Gospel writers saw meaning packed into every event and gesture of the Lord's earthly life. Here, in Jesus, God is on the offensive. In this era, we are moving rapidly from promise to fulfilment much as did the Israelites in the exodus. In the period of the Church, we have sacraments and signs of the Lord's inviting and driving presence. We can indeed see God in the world of nature as did Ecclesiastes. We can also see the Lord speaking to us and calling us forward as a Church, as a parish/community and as individuals. 

****

The news travelled far and fast. Herod heard of it. This exercise certainly made an impression. He heard about the miracles. This excited him. He was eager to witness some. Luke does not tell us about Herod's bad conscience. Herod rightly feels there is a connection between John and Jesus. With all the rumours that were going around, he did not know what to make of it. The effect on people is different. Some believe that Elijah has come again. Others think that a Prophet has risen. Others again think that John has risen from the dead. Herod's conscience stirs. It Will never leave him. Men can silence their conscience. When they do not listen to it, it keeps quiet. They cannot destroy their bad conscience. Herod asks the right question. Who is this? Jesus will put the same question to his apostles very shortly. He was anxious to see him. He did not have to wait long. Jesus was on the point of' setting out to Jerusalem. He will See him there (Luke 23.8212). He was delighted to see Jesus.

 

****

It is said that seeing is believing. Generally speaking that may be true, especially when we have heard about something and then finally get to see it for ourselves with our own eyes.  Yet there may be other instances where seeing may not necessarily lead to believing. In the gospel we heard that Herod was anxious to see Jesus; he had this longing to see who this Jesus was that he heard about. But when Herod finally got to see Jesus during His passion, he didn't think much about who he was looking at. Perhaps the pathetic state of being condemned led Herod to think that Jesus was just a shooting star that would fade off into the darkness. Yet the 1st reading makes us reflect deeper on what we are seeing around us.  Images of the sun rising and setting, the wind blowing, the waters of the river flowing into the sea are telling us something about the reality of our lives. Yet it is not about how much our eyes have seen or how much our ears have heard.  It is a matter of how much our hearts are filled - filled with mystery. In the Eucharist we see things like bread and wine and we hear prayers. May our hearts also be filled with the mystery of God's love.

****

"Two men looked through prison bars, the one saw mud, the other stars." Oscar Wilde, "Reading Gaol" 

Let us pray: Lord our God, you came to make all things new through Jesus Christ, your Son. Let him question us and let us question ourselves whether we give him in our lives the place he deserves. Make him the meaning of all we are and do, for he is our risen Lord for ever.