Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Psalm 89(90):3-6,12-14,17; Luke 9:7-9
Today and over the next two, we have three extracts from the short work, known as 'Ecclesiastes'. The author calls it his 'Qoheleth' which Hebrew word means 'assembly', so it is perhaps meant to be spoken to an assembly (and in Mass, it is being so!). Scriptural experts date it as about 3rd Century BC although it is commonly stated to have been written by King Solomon himself. But attribution is common in the old testament - most of the Psalms are attributed to King David, but in fact are from a folk tradition, and our book os Psalms contains only a fraction of the Psalms that were used in ancient times to preserve wisdom and provide messages of courage in difficult times.
In the 3rdC, the prevailing Hellenistic philosophy was one of questioning - one asks questions and explores truth by considering various answers to them, to discern which fit with the evidence. Todays question is about the values we place on things. Vanity, all is vanity!. Think in terms of an inconsequential puff of wind, barely enough to stir a leaf or the dust on the ground - that is how consequential our efforts are. We need to remember that we are saved by God's work, not by our own efforts.
Watching the news last weekend, one of us observed 'here we go again' as mass graves were uncovered in the forests around Izyum. As Ecclesiastes says, 'what has been done will be done again;. A depressing way to look at things perhaps - but this is the result of human endeavours.
The author is using a style that exaggerates in order to make the point clear: we must let God do the work, we must choose His way, and then repeating the mistakes of the past will not happen again. It is a book for those willing to challenge their own faith with difficult questions - but this is done to strengthen that faith.
Psalm 89 is a good one to read with Ecclesiastes -