Scripture: Lectionary 452. Sept.27. Ecclesiastes (Qohelet). 1:2-11. Psalm 90:3-4.5-6.12-13.14.17. Luke 9: 7-9:
Qohelet is the Hebrew name given to the book of Ecclesiastes. It means the Preacher who is addressing the assembly of the faithful. This Wisdom book is used in the festival of Tabernacles or Succoth that takes place in the autumn. The tone of the feast is one of
thanksgiving for the produce of the Land (of Israel). In some ways the celebration is likened to Thanksgiving Day.
For me this is the most realistic book in the Bible. It takes time and probably growing in age and wisdom before one comes to appreciate its message even though it is canonical for Jews and Christians. The pessimism of the book is what can catch us off guard to its inner message that is quite realistic of the way the majority of people pass through life. It has a message for each of us if we are patient in reading it. It does question many of our conventual ways of doing things and questions even religious conventional wisdom. It shies away from being a pious book or a prayer book. But it does hit us hard where we need to be awakened to the reality of everyday living.
We should live out our days not matter what each one brings. In many ways this living of life is not new. One of the quotations frequently used from Qohelet is “There is nothing new under the sun.” Qohelet is not speaking about technological advances or human philosophies but only how life is really much the same for people as the days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, and then the ensuing years depending on age, health, and sickness.
We are not to be so tied up with our work that there is not time for leisure. This is the only book that attacks workaholic behaviors. The ordinary joys that make up life are to be celebrated to the full. Experience in the things of life as blessings from God is mentioned
seven times—the fullness of life.
Fr. Addison Wright, SS a Sulpician priest and an expert on Qohelet and also on Midrash tells us: “Finally, in no way can Qohelet said to have had a close relationship with God.Not infrequently the rhetoric of the believing community creates the impression that all the faithful should be experiencing such a relationship that they are somewhat at fault if they do not. Clearly, countless thousands of devout people travel in the dark as did Qohelet and they can find dignity in the believing community because Qohelet was deemed worthy to have a place among the biblical writings. Surely the book needs to be complemented by other voices of Scripture, but its voice is of considerable importance.”
Our Psalm has the right insight and can be our prayer for the day: “Teach us to number or days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. …Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us.” Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.