Memory of the Church

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Ecclesiastes 1,2-11

Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile! What profit can we show for all our toil, toiling under the sun? A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; then back to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea go all the rivers, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No one can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was, will be again, what has been done, will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun! Take anything which people acclaim as being new: it existed in the centuries preceding us. No memory remains of the past, and so it will be for the centuries to come -- they will not be remembered by their successors.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Qoheleth (the "Teacher") is a pseudonym that conceals the author of these "words;" it could also be translated as "preacher." The term evokes the "assembly" (qahal), perhaps a religious assembly or a group of disciples, or more generically, the "people" (see 12:9). The beginning of the passage presents the most famous phrase of this book of the Bible: "All is vanity." The Hebrew word for vanity, "hebel," means "breath of wind." It is a metaphor for all of life, indeed, for all of reality, which is "like" a breath. The author captures the fleetingness, the instability, the littleness, and the vanity that are woven through and make up all of human existence. These words sound even stronger if we think of the events linked to the pandemic that shook the very foundations of the concept of a safe and secure life, given the progress made through technology and economics. In reality, life is precious not because of the solidity of the progress of technology and economics, but because of the strength of fraternity among all. Globalisation as it is being carried out leads to a fast and harried pace. In fact, Qohelet warns "there is nothing new under the sun." The creation seems to be condemned to perpetual motion without any goal: a movement similar to that of the wind that comes and goes. Immersed in this whirlpool of weakness, humanity cannot have the last word on anything: there is no end to discussions and understandings! But Qohelet does not support an "eternal return of all things." Instead he hints there is an "end," a destination towards which human existence is directed. God created human beings and the universe so that they might come to fulfilment. We could say that life is like a pilgrimage towards God's future. This little book of the First Testament, from which we have read a passage, reminds us that the stability of our life lies in obedience to God's plan. And it will be the Lord who will accompany us and welcome us into the world he prepares for us, as the prophet says: "I am about to do a new thing" (Is 43:19).