Scripture: Lectionary 454. Sat. Sept. 29th. Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8. Psalm 90:3-4.5-6.12-13.14.17. Luke 9:43-45:
The realistic wisdom book of Ecclesiastes comes to an end today with a “book end” to the way it started: “Vanity of vanities, and all things are vanity.” One religious brother translated this as “all is fluff.”
Jesus offsets this hopeless statement with the wisdom of the Cross. The readings thus are paradoxical on the one hand if we just stay with Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) while on the other hand by probing the wisdom of Jesus about the Cross we come to learn there is the paradox of both earthly wisdom with heavenly wisdom.
We will hear from the Synoptic Gospels about Jesus prediction of the Paschal Mysteries three times: suffering, death, resurrection. John will speak of it in the lifting up on the Cross three times (3:14, 8:28. 12:32-34). In the selection from Luke for today, Jesus does not mention the resurrection in this second prediction. The disciples are so amazed at the powers that Jesus has manifested in his healings, exorcisms, and his wisdom sayings that they block out the full message of what he tells them. The disciples are in some type of denial that he should ever suffer and die. Yet, the messianic secret continues in his travels and his predictions about what is to happen to him. He is not a royal messiah but a suffering one, a servant of God. Like them, we are often in denial of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus and its effect on our lives. We do not grasp it all. We have the same tendency not to ask questions about this mystery of Jesus nor to probe deeper into it. It may take us away from our comfort zones.
Qohelet, the preacher, tells us that in the end life is not very promising. Like nature we see things decaying and fading. Fruit trees lose their produce. Eyes of the elderly turn blind. Things are no longer what they seemed in our youth. The worldly wisdom of Qohelet is not at all hopeful. There is no mention of a resurrection. It contrasts with what Jesus is revealing. Jesus wisdom is meant to help us realize that unless the seed fall into the ground and die, it does not bud forth its fruit. Jesus leads us through the various phases and stages of life by his own life and the wisdom that is everlasting.
We can start to remember that Jesus has already mentioned the resurrection in his former prediction. There is hope for life—even eternal life. His wisdom is from above; Qohelet’s is worldly, down to earth. Qohelet does not allow his seeds of wisdom to fall and die in the earth inorder to blossom forth again.
We are to believe in him, and to trust his words of wisdom. Just as he will rise from the dead as the first fruits of the harvest so will we. Love of Jesus, trust and belief in Jesus, hope in what Jesus has said and done, will put aside the vanity of vanities of Qohelet and sing the refrain of Halleluiah. Our Psalm points out this hopeful promise that we can assimilate the wisdom of Jesus and thus began the journey of life with hope: “Teach us, Jesus, to remember our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart.” Amen.