Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, priest
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Luke 9:7-9)
Over a generation ago physicist Steven Weinberg sounded a scientist’s existential knell. He wrote, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." That is, the more knowledge of the universe humans have, the less significant they seem in comparison with the totality of reality. Weinberg seems akin to Qoheleth, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, whom we hear in the first reading today. Both, at least, are pessimistic about the prospect of humans finding fulfillment in their own achievements.
Qoheleth is really not a kill-joy. When he writes that “all is vanity,” he does not mean that human effort is useless and happiness illusory. His concentration on “vanity” is meant to indicate that people should not place their greatest hopes in new ideas or other humans, all of which cannot overcome the formidable enemies of sin and death. He observes that there have been innovations before, yet humanity goes on with just about the same mix of good and bad as always. Great men have also come and gone without improving human virtue. Unfortunately, Qoheleth never encountered Christ. If he had, he would have discovered the one exception to his rule. In Jesus we can become truly good people destined for eternal life.