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(Part 2)


September 28, 2012
Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Today’s reading from Ecclesiastes is a very familiar passage. It has even been celebrated in song (Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”). For most people, the passage highlights contrasts. Either one thing is happening or the other. For me, “I have considered the task which God has appointed for men to be busied about.” (Eccl 3:10), and I can see that rather than just either-or events, we as Christians can look to both-and events.

All these times relate to our life in Christ and to the work of the New Evangelization.

A time to be born, and a time to die (Eccl 3:2a). Jesus was born in order to die. We in turn die to self in order to be born again in Christ. Ultimately for us, to die will be to be born into eternal life. “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21).

A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant (Eccl 3:2b). We plant the good seed in our lives and in the lives of others, while uprooting everything that is not of God. “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” (Mt 15:13).

A time to kill, and a time to heal (Eccl 3:3a). We put to death what is not of God in our lives, in order that we might receive the fullness of healing, of being made whole, of being integral in Christ. “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. .... and put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” (Col 3:5,10).

A time to tear down, and a time to build (Eccl 3:3b). We tear down the strongholds of the enemy and build the kingdom of God. “This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” (Jer 1:10).

A time to weep, and a time to laugh (Eccl 3:4a). As we receive the grace of repentance and forgiveness, we weep but out of joy. With our tears are washed away the impurities, leaving us with wide smiles and laughter for our transformation. “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.” (Lk 6:21b). We also weep at the situation of a world steeped in sin, while rejoicing in being given the privilege to proclaim the gospel to such a world. When we do evangelize, we will be afflicted by the enemy, for which we can rejoice for the privilege. “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction” (Rom 12:12a). Finally, as a people of God, we share our lives with one another. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15).

A time to mourn, and a time to dance (Eccl 3:4b). We mourn over continued sin in our lives and in the life of the world, as we dance for joy for the gift of forgiveness and the work of evangelization. “Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.” (Jas 4:9). As we do so, as we turn to God, God will act, as He did for Esther and the Jews, as the situation “was turned for them from sorrow into joy, from mourning into festivity.” (Est 9:22b).

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them (Eccl 3:5a). God says, “See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation” (Is 28:16a). Jesus is the cornerstone and we are the stones that make up the edifice. We scatter into the whole world to proclaim Christ and gather together as one people of God, as one Church. Thus, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5a).

A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces (Eccl 3:5b). Our homes, our communities and our parishes are havens where we enjoy the embrace of loved ones and brethren. Paul ended his letters with the instruction to give brethren a holy embrace or kiss (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thes 5:26; 1 Pt 5:14). But we do not become too comfortable and complacent, as we also go forth for mission in the world, far from embraces. When Paul gave his farewell to the brethren at Miletus to go on with his mission, “they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him” (Acts 20:37b).

A time to seek, and a time to lose (Eccl 3;6a). We seek Jesus and we lose ourselves for his sake. We seek the kingdom and we lose the darkened world in which we lived. We give up our lives for Jesus and receive his very life in return. “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Lk 17:33).

A time to keep, and a time to cast away (Eccl 3:6b). In our lives we keep everything that is right and just and true, while casting away what is wrong, unjust and false. “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” (Rom 12:21).

A time to rend, and a time to sew (Eccl 3:7a). We rend our hearts (Jl 2:13a) and tear ourselves off from a sinful world, as we sew together and put on a garment of righteousness.

A time to be silent, and a time to speak (Eccl 3:7b). In the work of witnessing to Jesus, we do so both silently and verbally, both by the silent witness of our lives and by the spoken witness of our mouths. Further, our every day is spent in silence before Jesus as we pray and seek guidance, and in speaking his word to others as we proclaim the good news of salvation in him. Every Christian must become an evangelizer. “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” (Lk 19:40).

A time to love, and a time to hate (Eccl 3:8a). We love what is good and we hate what is evil. We hate the sin but love the sinner. “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil” (Rom 12:9a).

A time of war, and a time of peace (Eccl 3:8b). We are engaged in a spiritual war, even as we are waging peace in the world. As our struggle is against the evil spirits in the heavens (Eph 6:12), we put on the armor of God, with our “feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.” (Eph 6:15). This war is also within us, as we wage war on the flesh, thus attaining the peace of Christ within us.

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Eccl 3:1). We do not just live in this world with an aimless existence. Rather, we are people of God who have a mission in this life. God “has made everything appropriate to its time” (Eccl 3:11a), and our part is to discern what is proper at what time, and then go and do what God intends for us.

God “has put the timeless into (our) hearts” (Eccl 3:11b), as we are His creatures made in His image and likeness, and called to imitate Jesus His Son and our Lord. We have finite existence, but the infinite is within us. We are destined to live eternally with God in heaven.

It may be that like everyone else, we will live our lives “without men’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.” (Eccl 3:11c). After all, God is the Almighty whose works are mysterious. We will never fully appreciate what God has done for us--with creation, with salvation in Jesus, with empowerment by the Holy Spirit. But God does reveal Himself to us. We do have an inkling of who He is and what He is about in the world.

That is good enough for us. The full revelation of God will be in heaven. Now, while on earth, we simply have faith and trust fully in Him. We BE.LI.EV.E, and go forth and do His work.

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