This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
I grew up with Pete Seeger’s version of this great passage, in which, of course, he ironically recommends peace, as something whose time might have arrived. Notions of circularity and balance are essential to this kind of wisdom, which counters the human folly of seeing only one time and one purpose: there can’t always be dancing, but neither will mourning last forever. But the writer has another insight. Although wisdom decrees suitable times for every purpose, God has placed a “forever” (Hebrew ‘Olam) in the human heart, a longing for permanence, which could only be satisfied by a full knowledge, which is withheld from us, of God’s creative work. This seems to me a profound and accurate diagnosis, which ultimately finds its medicine in Augustine’s “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.'”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
The faith of Peter cuts through the superstitious responses of the crowds who think that “the thing that has been, is the thing that shall be; and there is nothing new under the sun.” Peter sees clearly that something utterly new is happening, something decisive, which his religion has taught him to call the Messiah. Jesus’ response tells Peter that his faith has not yet grasped how utterly and incomprehensibly new He is. He will not fulfil the nationalist dreams of his people but will be rejected and killed. That’s so new, that Peter can only really believe it through his experience of the risen Jesus. God’s “forever” is a much stranger thing than Ecclesiastes or Peter imagines: it does not give the body –swerve to failure and death.
One constant temptation of religion is to offer a comforting “forever”, either of God’s protection here and now; or of “pie in the sky when we die” which makes nonsense of human struggle. The real security is the risk of faith; the true “forever” is our daily bread.