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Is There Really Nothing New Under the Sun?

October 13, 2014

September 25, 2014: Twenty-fifth Thursday in Ordinary Time. 

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11.  Nothing is new under the sun.

Luke 9:7-9. John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things.


Gospel Reflection:

There is a famous quote, very old saying, author unknown: “Nobody’s perfect.”

Right?! Here is another – a proverb from the Philippines: “The fly on the water buffalo’s back thinks he is taller than the water buffalo.”

The writer in Ecclesiastes is also using some common phrasing. He uses vanity thirty-five times in this book.  He may as well be referring to futility.  It is futile to keep attempting to be perfect, it is futile to think oneself is loftier than another.  All things end, only God remains.  And we hear those reminders at the Mass, too?  Especially when? Ash Wednesday – “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

One of my favorite books as a young man was “Earth Abides.” It was written in 1949 by George R. Stewart, post-war days. The ending passage from the hero at the end of his days reads, “Then, though his sight was now very dim, he looked again at the young men.  “They will commit me to the earth,” he thought. “Yet I also commit them to the earth.  There is nothing else by which men live.  Men go and come, but earth abides.”  Vanity of vanities, all things are vanities.

Men go and come, but earth abides. – Ish

Our writer also uses a popular Semitic phrase “Under the sun” twenty-eight times. He talks of all our accomplishments falling short of these natural occurrences; like the elements; like the sun rising and setting; the rivers flowing.  He symbolizes the human condition to those occurrences in nature, a relentless monotony without any achievement.  Man accomplishes new achievements to no avail – they are not really new, merely forgotten.  There is even a Babylonian proverb to tell us, “The life of last night is the same as every day.”

What makes our author stand out is that he is thinking beyond the normal accepted philosophy and theology which was what? God hands out earthly rewards and earthly punishments. No.  As St Augustine said, “It is you, O Lord, who have accomplished all that we have done.” All achievements are by God’s grace.  All wisdom?  God’s grace.  But with greater wisdom, one recognizes – with the Light of Faith – true spiritual wisdom.

With God as the final Judge of what is good and what is bad, one now only has to look to eternity.

Ecclesiastes is a short book, one that will be done by Saturday. But it is a good early precursor to the coming of Jesus the Christ.  It ends with Qoheleth writing: “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad” (Eccl 12:13-14)

Oh vanity of vanities.




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