If the Gospel tells us ‘all speech is labored,’ why try to communicate at all?
A Reflection for Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
All speech is labored;
there is nothing one can say.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
nor is the ear satisfied with hearing. (Eccl 1:2-11)
These are not words one wants to hear at a media ministry.
If all speech is labored, then why write anything down? If the eye is not satisfied with seeing, what does that mean for our Youtube channel? And podcasts? Well, the ear doesn’t seem interested.
Indeed, why try to communicate at all when, according to the much-quoted verse from Ecclesiastes that precedes this text, “all is vanity”?
Some context: The author here is Solomon, who spends most of this Old Testament text proclaiming the fact everything is meaningless and futile—without God. That last phrase is not included in today’s reading, which puzzled me at first. Surely the audience needs that reminder. Otherwise they might throw up their hands in desperation. Why pursue anything at all if life is truly meaningless?
Nothing matters if God is not at the center of my life. Everything else is vanity.
But perhaps we need this kind of stark reminder. We spend so much of our time on pursuits that have little, if anything, to do with God. I know I am very easily distracted by mundane things. Sometimes I need to be put straight: None of it ultimately matters. Indeed, nothing matters if God is not at the center of my life. Everything else is vanity. Message received.
Another way to look at this text is in contrast to the relatively short Gospel reading. Herod heard “about all that is happening” and asked “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” We, of course, know what things he refers to. More importantly, we know whom he refers to. But the way Luke tells the story is effective. In a few short phrases, he reminds us why Jesus excited so many people, including someone as notorious as Herod.
All speech is labored, there is nothing one can say.
That is, until Jesus came—and reset the rules of the game.