While listening to our favorite oldies station in the car, I was thrilled when The Byrds 1965 hit Turn! Turn! Turn! began to play. Some time ago, my friend who shares my nostalgic tendencies sent me a link to a YouTube video of this beloved song. Though I rarely click email links, I was thrilled to do so at the time. When my husband and I returned home after our errands, I searched for that link with hope for a replay. Happily, I found that treasure and then sat back to listen. I wasn’t disappointed. The Byrds had put the text from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to music almost verbatim. When they released their potential hit, this American Folk Rock Band did so in an effort to promote world peace. Throughout the years since, I’ve listened intently to both this melody and the original passage from Ecclesiastes which was often read at funerals I’d attended. Every time, whether spoken or sung, those amazingly simple words filled me with inexplicable peace.
For those not familiar with The Byrds’ rendition, 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 read through the song’s 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 both sources, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. 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.” I admit to my own very strong inclination to insist the same. Even today, it’s not too late for peace among us here at home and around the world. This passage from Ecclesiastes isn’t among the scripture readings we’ll hear at Mass this weekend. Still, it seems to me that the Ordinary Time scripture readings from recent weeks and today indicate that Jesus was very much aware of the timing of the events of his life. Jesus was also very much aware of our need to infuse peace into each and every one of those events.
After much prayer and reflection, Jesus went to his cousin John to be baptized. It was time for Jesus to begin his public life. Not long afterward, Jesus attended the wedding in Cana with his friends. Very much aware of timing herself, Mary sought Jesus’ help when the couple involved ran out of wine. If she acted quickly, 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 provided the wine that was needed. 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.
It was in the synagogue where he grew up that 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.” When he finished, Jesus set aside the scroll and told the people that this saying had come to fruition before them. While his neighbors marveled at his knowledge of the scriptures, 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 that the timing wasn’t right or perhaps that his neighbors’ hearts weren’t ready. 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 had little to do with ones relationship with God. It was the generosity of a person’s spirit which spoke volumes. When one reached beyond the peaceful confines of his or her own comfort zones and time zones to those in need, one demonstrated his or her proximity to God most clearly. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesus’ neighbors. They weren’t ready to recognize the peace to be found in aligning themselves with God’s timing and with God’s love. They didn’t understand that, whether the opportunity was a one-minute encounter with a homeless person or a lifelong relationship, it was always the right time to love as God loves. It was always the right time to find true peace.
I admit that I sometimes join Jesus’ neighbors in failing to take advantage of God’s timing and God’s peace. 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. 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 peace by loving just as Jesus loved and as only we can.
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