Homilette for Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11)

Over a generation ago physicist Steven Weinberg wrote, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." He meant that from all that scientists have learned, it seems that human knowledge will become extinct while the universe will stretch endlessly through time. Weinberg seems akin to Qoheleth, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes whom we hear in the first reading today. At least, both caution against optimism about the future whether we are look for an indomitable human achievement or for human heroes who will transcend time.

Qoheleth is really not a curmudgeon. When he writes that “all is vanity,” he does not mean that human effort is useless and human joy will inevitably sour. His use of “vanity” only indicates that people should not place their hopes in new ideas which are not likely to improve their lot. He observes that there have been innovations before, yet humanity goes on with just about the same mix of good and bad as always. Unfortunately, Qoheleth never encountered Christ. If he had, he should have discovered the one exception to his rule. Jesus is one person whose memory the ages cannot erase. Indeed, his revelation – what he calls “new wine for new wineskins” – brings humanity the realization of a completely new possibility.

Although to some it may seem narrow-minded and self-serving, we Christians, like Qoheleth, hold that after Christ the windows of revelation have been fused shut. True, we keep on discovering new implications of Christ’s teaching, but we deny the possibility of a new wisdom that will bring us closer to the divine. We find it peculiar how some embrace New Age rites or even ancient world religions. No doubt, there are aspects in these approaches to life that would be profitable to know. But for the most part we will find them elements of Christian belief that have been neglected over the years.