Gospel: Lk 9:7-9
King Herod heard of all this, and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.” Others believed that Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded. Who is this man, about whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see him.
Today’s first reading is an excerpt from Ecclesiastes, also known as Qoheleth.
Until Qoheleth was written (about 300 years before Christ), everyone in Israel agreed on three dogmas: there is no positive afterlife (everybody ends up in the dark Sheol), God is just, God rewards and punishes people in this life according to their deserts. The Book of Job is the only book which disputes this, because Job is a good man who suffers terribly. However, the ending of the book (Job is given back twice of what he had lost) aligns it with the traditional doctrine of divine retribution in this life. And so, Qoheleth is the only author of the Old Testament who is honest and realist enough to say that people do not always get what they deserve. As he says: “I have seen all manner of things in my vain days: a just man perishing in his justice, and a wicked man surviving in his wickedness (Qo 7:15; see also 8:14; 9:2-3, 11).
Things have not changed since the time of Qoheleth: good people still suffer bad things, bad people are the unworthy beneficiaries of good things. God’s justice will be meted out only after this life, not during it.
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