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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Ecclesiastes 3,16-22

Again I observe under the sun: crime is where justice should be, the criminal is where the upright should be.

And I think to myself: the upright and the criminal will both be judged by God, since there is a time for every thing and every action here.

I think to myself: where human beings are concerned, this is so that God can test them and show them that they are animals.

For the fate of human and the fate of animal is the same: as the one dies, so the other dies; both have the selfsame breath. Human is in no way better off than animal -- since all is futile.

Everything goes to the same place, everything comes from the dust, everything returns to the dust.

Who knows if the human spirit mounts upward or if the animal spirit goes downward to the earth?

I see there is no contentment for a human being except happiness in achievement; such is the lot of a human beings. No one can tell us what will happen after we are gone.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Qohelet’s reflection turns toward human society. The experience of injustice, of abuse, of oppression is in front of everyone’s eyes. The author writes: "I saw under the sun," that is, it is more than apparent that where right should govern, there is iniquity, and where justice should be applied, wickedness instead rules. Job also will denounce the perversion of right, accusing God himself: "The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the eyes of its judges - if it is not he, who then is it?" (9:24). The prophets too will cry out against corruption which came down violently especially against the weak and the poor. Qohelet in any case affirms that God will come to judge with justice: he will punish the wicked and return their rights to the innocent. The ruin is dramatic enough to compare human behaviour to that of animals: desire and egocentric instincts thrust men to commit crimes against the weak and to devour one another: "they are but animals" (v. 18). But Qohelet reminds us that everyone, people and animals, all encounter the same "fate:" death. Both are "hebel," marked by a radical weakness. Qohelet makes a play on the Hebrew words "ruah" (breath of life) and "hebel" (breath of wind): people and animals have life but are as equally ephemeral as a blowing of the wind. And death gathers them in the same "place," "Sheol." All comes from dust, and to dust it returns (v. 20). And Qohelet coldly undermines the conviction that the human spirit goes up, asking, "Who knows?" (v.21). The question remains: what to do if, in light of the injustice reigning in the world, there is indeed the certainty of God’s salvation, but not that of life after death? "God’s justice" moreover is not always visible in this world, at times the sudden death of the just even seems to contradict it. So human beings have nothing left but to enjoy his works, the "portion" God assigned them. Qohelet believes anyway that "God will judge the righteous and the wicked" (v. 17); this is what faith knows. While experience demonstrates that the human being is mortal like the animals, on the other hand, he cannot bypass a question which leaves open the possibility of fulfilment. The "only good" possible for humanity is to enjoy what one does, well aware that beyond the fleeting second, we know nothing (22).

Memory of Jesus crucified