Reflecting on Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23
Of all the Old Testament writers, I think I feel sorriest for the guy who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. He has a symbolic name―Qoheleth, “ Preacher”―because his actual name and position in the 3rd century B.C. community is unknown. He’s lived a long life, tried on every one of the theologies available to him from the Scriptures, and has come to this conclusion: life’s a drag, and then you die.
My heart breaks for Qoheleth because if he had only been born just 250 years later he might have known Jesus. I’ll bet he would have been a disciple, or maybe even one of the Twelve. He was a seeker, a true lover of the Word in his youth, but as he aged he experienced that most radical challenge to Hebrew theology: bad things happen to really good people. And because he never knew Jesus he didn’t have any place to put that in his head. He had no understanding of an afterlife, no theology of meaning in suffering. Hence his conclusion: Vanity of vanities, life is just a chase against the wind.
The foolish landowner in today’s Gospel thinks to himself: I can’t take it with me, so I might as well eat, drink and be merry. But Jesus says we do take it with us ―every bin of grain that is opened up and poured out for those who are poor goes with us when we go to God. And, by the way, we have no idea when that day may come.
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).