(Part 196)


September 22, 2016

Today’s readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Psalm 90:3-17

Luke 9:7-9

“Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Eccl 1:2). What the ancient sage is saying is that it is practically useless to exert all our efforts in life, as nothing really changes. “One generation departs and another generation comes, but the world forever stays.” (Eccl 1:4).

Some might feel this way about our Christian work.

  • We exert much effort in evangelization, but many who come to Christ later fall away.
  • We raise and train servant leaders, only to see them later not live out basic Christian values, which they might even be already teaching others.
  • We expend money and resources on establishing our work in other countries, but these communities later disintegrate.
  • There is much pastoral activity in our Church, but Catholics are still lost by the day.
  • We painstakingly build up the body, only to see it wracked by factionalism and division.

What are we about anyway? Even the good we do will not necessarily be remembered or appreciated. “There is no remembrance of past generations; nor will future generations be remembered by those who come after them.” (Eccl 1:11). Do we labor in vain? “Most of (our years) are toil and sorrow; they pass quickly, and we are gone.” (Ps 90:10b).

Now we talk of the New Evangelization. New? “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.” (Eccl 1:9-10). Indeed, evangelization has existed for two millennia. But still, the Spirit calls us to a New Evangelization. It must be that important.

But if what Qoheleth says is true, how relevant is this work that we say should be massive? Might we not as well occupy ourselves with other matters, including secular concerns? Well, this is all about Christ, and he is forever relevant. If I may paraphrase a verse in the letter to the Hebrews, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What really matters is Christ. Apostles and evangelists come and go. Prophets come and go. But Christ is ever fresh and dynamic. Herod had said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” (Lk 9:9a). And Christ will always be attractive to people. “And he kept trying to see him.” (Lk 9:9b).

And so whatever happens, we simply continue on with the work of evangelization. And we pray, not to be remembered or appreciated or exalted, but simply for there to be a great harvest for the Kingdom. If things are vain in this life, it certainly will not be vain in the afterlife. If we have to ask the question, “What profit have we from all the toil which we toil at under the sun?” (Eccl 1:3), the answer is salvation and our eternal reward in heaven. And so we simply pray, “My the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Prosper the work of our hands!” (Ps 90:17).

That is the New Evangelization.

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