The Revolution from Vanity of Vanities to Eternal Meaning, 25th Thursday (II), September 22, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
September 22, 2016
Eccl 1:2-11, Ps 90, Lk 9:7-9


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we begin three days pondering the Book of Ecclesiastes. There has been debate over the course of time as to whether this book is inspired, whether it should be part of Sacred Scripture. Is everything a “vanity of vanities?” Is there “nothing new under the sun?” Does man profit nothing from all his labor? Is everything just cyclical, where what has been will recur and what has been done will be done again? Is there no remembrance of men of old and no hope that others will remember us? The Christian faith is ready to reject what these questions reply, but before we do, we should ask again why the Church would consider this text nevertheless inspired. The fundamental reason is because it shows the meaningless of a life without reference to God and eternal life and shows the longing of all created reality for the radical newness that the kingdom of God will bring.
  • That newness happened with the resurrection. In the Gospel, there are several references to raising from the dead. The paranoid Herod Antipas worried that Jesus was John the Baptist or one of the other prophets risen from the dead, but for him, and for the people of his day, to be risen basically meant resuscitated, only to die anew. If John were really resuscitated, the Herod could just chop off his head again at a lustful whim. But Jesus’ resurrection really was something new, something that gave meaning to suffering, crucifixion and death. It was truly a new life that gave all things meaning. In response to Ecclesiastes’ pessimism that we can never really say truthfully, “See this is new!,” Christ, risen from the dead, says in Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new!”
  • How do we experience this newness? Through communion with Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life. And how do we do that? Fundamentally through prayer, the Sacraments and the Christian moral life of charity. I want to focus fundamentally on the Sacraments that connect us to the Risen Christ. Baptism gives us his risen life within. Penance restores that life. Holy Communion intensifies it. During this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, as today we celebrate a Votive Mass of the Mercy of God, we can ponder how Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Easter Sunday evening so that we can more easily grasp that every reconciliation is a resurrection, when the Father of us his prodigal children says, “My son was dead and has been brought to life again.” But we need to receive the gift of God’s mercy at the depth at which he gives it, knowing that it has the power to give us new life, that it is a gift far greater than raising a cemetery from the dead. That’s what gives us confidence in the fight against sin, that we can experience Christ’s triumph even over death.
  • Every time we go up to the altar of God, Jesus seeks to rejuvenate us, to make us younger, to make us new, to give us a new heart and a new life. As we prepare to receive him today, we thank him and ask him so to transform us so that we may bring his hope to those who are struggling through what seems like a meaningless existence by introducing them to God in the fullness of his restorative mercy!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 ECCL 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
What profit has man from all the labor
which he toils at under the sun?
One generation passes and another comes,
but the world forever stays.
The sun rises and the sun goes down;
then it presses on to the place where it rises.
Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north,
the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.
All rivers go to the sea,
yet never does the sea become full.
To the place where they go,
the rivers keep on going.
All speech is labored;
there is nothing one can say.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
nor is the ear satisfied with hearing.

What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun.
Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!”
has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
There is no remembrance of the men of old;
nor of those to come will there be any remembrance
among those who come after them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 AND 17BC

R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Alleluia JN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.