This morning’s first reading (ECCL 3:1-11) which tells us that there is a time for everything and then gives pairs of opposites as examples (“a time to be born and a time to die”) is used most frequently at funerals. We hear it or sing it or even read it ourselves at those often difficult or bittersweet moments and feel grief or comfort depending on the circumstances of the death. There is great wisdom in this reading, however, which is worth some deeper reflection. I once spent a whole week’s retreat trying to befriend time instead of grasping at it, feeling as if I never had enough to do what I thought was necessary or significant or rewarding. While I’m still often “short on time” I think I’ve learned the futility of attempts at control and see this reading as the best approach. Trusting that God “has made everything appropriate to its time” allows me to let go more often, to observe events and to focus rather on the truth that God has also “put the timeless into [our] hearts” so that every event, every thought, every prayer, every breath can – with conscious attention and intention – lead us beyond time, straight into the heart of God.
*NOTE: Once again this morning, internet access has been spotty, thus the late entry here. I will be leading a retreat this weekend and am not sure how it will be for tomorrow and Sunday in the location where the retreat is being held. Stay tuned!
I’ve had a number of conversations this week with individuals speaking of “seasonal fatigue” around the shift from summer to autumn. One person said, “I’ve been sleeping nine or ten hours a night and still feel a bit tired during the day!” I told her, a recent retiree, to go right on sleeping that much and be grateful that she can, until the fatigue recedes. We continued the conversation with discussion of the rhythms of nature that were disrupted by the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society and inventions that allowed the prolongation of light to our days by artificial means. This is old news for us, of course, but there seems to be more recognition of the disruption as life speeds up and our workdays get longer or more intense. I am personally more aware this year of the movements of nature, day to day, as I mow different kinds of grass each month or see flowers and leaves shift week to week in their life cycle.
The readings this morning, Ecclesiastes (1:2-11) and Psalm 90, remind me of that flow. From Ecclesiastes: The sun rises and the sun goes down; then it presses on to the place where it rises…What has been, that will be; what is done that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun.
This is all fine when we’re talking about nature – and it would behoove us to remember it as we try to control everything in our lives. But we are also in the throes of deep distress over world events, seeing worse happenings every day. Is there nothing we can do in the face of it? Psalm 90 responds: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. The psalmist continues, crying out to God, Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Perhaps the key is in recognizing that the kindness of God is already in our midst and that our shouts of joy and gladness will arise from the realization that we must become that joy and gladness in the world in a manner that will transform the darkness into light.