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The Emptiness of Human Existence

Homily for Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

You might be asking, “Who is this person named Qoheleth?” Actually Qoheleth is not the name of a person; it is rather a title. Our English equivalent for this title is a convener, someone who calls a group to work together as in the one who convenes an assembly. Consequently we have entitled this writing as the Book of Ecclesiastes because we call our assembly, the church, or “ecclesia” in Latin.

The entire Book of Ecclesiastes is rather somber as it reflects on human life. “Nothing new under the sun,” the writer concludes. No matter what we do, the sun rises and sets every day, the wind blows north one day and south another, the rivers all run to the sea, but the sea is never filled. So why do we work? Why do we labor all our days? It doesn’t change anything.

Imagine for a moment if St. Vincent de Paul believed this. Imagine all that would have gone undone if he had not cared for the poor nor worked for the reform of the clergy in France. Imagine that none of the acts of charity that have been done in his name had gone undone. While it is true that in terms of our human existence, our lives may not change all that much, it is also true that in terms of our spiritual lives, our human actions do make a tremendous difference.

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote as his First Principal that the goal of life is to praise, reverence and serve God, and that an extension of reaching that goal, is our call to help and serve others. When we include God in our lives, then our human existence does bring about change. The sun will go on rising and setting. The wind will continue to blow. The rivers will continue to flow to the sea. At the same time, God’s Will will be done.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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