A childhood friend who shares my nostalgic tendencies recently sent me the link to a YouTube video. I rarely click email links, but I was thrilled to go to this one. It took me to a recording of Turn! Turn! Turn! which was recorded by The Byrds in 1965. When I clicked the “play” arrow and sat back to listen, I was not disappointed. The Byrds put the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to music almost verbatim. At the time, this American Folk Rock Band performed the song to promote world peace. In my case, every time I listen, the musical score and those amazingly simple words fill me with inexplicable peace.
For those not familiar with the lyrics, every verse begins, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under heaven.” If you look at the song lyrics or the scripture passage, you’ll find that there is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, to reap, to kill, to heal, to laugh and to weep. There is also a time to build up and to take down, to dance and to mourn. According to Ecclesiastes and the Byrds, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Both the song and the scripture passage end with the assertion that there is also a time for peace. Insisting that this was the case even in the tumultuous 60s, the Byrds added, “I swear it’s not too late.” Ecclesiastes is not among the scripture readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend. Still, it seems to me that the Ordinary Time gospels from recent weeks and today indicate that Jesus is very much aware of the timing of the events of his life.
After much prayer and reflection, Jesus went to his cousin John to be baptized. It was time for Jesus to begin his public life. Jesus also attended the wedding in Cana with his friends. Very much aware of timing herself, Mary sought out Jesus’ help when the couple involved ran out of wine. If she acted quickly enough, they would suffer no embarrassment over this turn of events. Jesus initially seemed unhappy with Mary’s timing. Still, on second thought, he abided by his mother’s wishes and turned water into wine. At the same time, Jesus’ friends realized it was time to allow their belief in Jesus’ friendship to grow into belief in his ministry. In today’s gospel (Luke 4:21-30), Luke tells us that Jesus found himself in the midst of seemingly poor timing when he preached for the first time in his home town of Nazareth…
In the synagogue where he grew up, Jesus read this passage from the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.” Afterward, Jesus set aside the scroll and told the people that this saying had come to fruition before them. His neighbors marveled at his knowledge of the scriptures, but they also wondered why Jesus performed no good works among them. After all, those closest to Jesus certainly deserved a miracle or two. Apparently, Jesus felt the timing wasn’t right. Rather than offering a miracle, Jesus responded with a lesson. Jesus insisted that ones proximity to a temple or preacher, priest or prophet, bible or scroll has little to do with ones relationship with God. It is the generosity of a person’s spirit which speaks volumes. When we reach beyond the confines of our own comfort zones and our own time zones to those who need us most, we demonstrate our proximity to God quite clearly. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesus’ neighbors. They weren’t ready to recognize the joy to be found in aligning ourselves with God’s timing and with God’s love. They didn’t understand that, whether the opportunity is a one-minute encounter with a homeless person or a lifelong relationship, it is always the right time to love as God loves.
I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes join Jesus’ neighbors in failing to take advantage of God’s timing. When I look back upon the happiest and the most trying episodes of my life, I realize that there truly is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. In between those two events, God sees to it that there is also time enough to plant, to reap, to heal, to laugh and to weep, to build up and to take down, to dance, to mourn and to love. God sees to it that there is always time enough to transform our little corners of the world with love -just as Jesus did and as only we can.
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