Friday September 27, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 9:18-22)
In the first reading today, we hear Qoheleth as he muses about the various times for all of the things in a human life and then says that God has put into the human heart the timeless. As much as there is a time for everything, for all of us, timelessness, eternity, has been placed into our hearts. We are not eternal in and of ourselves; we are immortal. Eternal would mean no beginning and no end. We have, obviously, a beginning; we will have no end. Our lives will continue on, and they are timeless in that way.
There is only One who is eternal, and that is God. God has placed Himself right into our souls (for all those who are in the state of grace). Truly, the timeless has been placed into our hearts. And so when he asks the question "What advantage has the worker from his toil?" it is the realization that we can go through all these motions and do all these things in their proper time, but that is not entirely what we are made for. It is a matter that we need to keep our focus on what is eternal, on where it is that we are going.
It is the same thing we talked about yesterday. We need to make sure that the things we are doing are being done in such a way that they are not just simply something which is empty, something that is just going through the motions; but rather, because we have the timeless, the eternal, within us, we have also the ability to be able to do things in time with a view to eternity. That is, the reason we do things and the way we do things is done for a higher reason: It is done out of charity.
We see at the same time, in the Gospel reading, that the Timeless One, the Eternal One, came into time. And He told us there was a time that He had to go to Jerusalem, He had to be rejected, He had to suffer, He had to be crucified, and He would be raised on the third day. There was a time for that, and it is that point in time that we continue to focus on as being the central point in all of human history. Yet at the same time, we look at the crucifix and we recognize that it is timeless.
That is exactly the same mystery that takes place in each of us. Because God dwells within, because we are called to something beyond this life, we have the opportunity to do things that are timeless, even within time. We have the opportunity, being made in the image and likeness of God, being baptized into Christ and having the life of God within us, to be able to do human things in a divine manner, to be able to operate on a divine level, to be creatures of time who are operating in the timeless. It is something that we do not even understand. That is exactly what Qoheleth said: God has put the timeless into their hearts without man's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. We know it is there. We cannot grasp it entirely and we never will, because being finite creatures we will never be able to grasp the infinite; nonetheless, we know it is there.
For each of us, then, God is asking that as we strive to live our lives in holiness - that we continue to live until we die in this world but not of this world, and not merely for this world - that the way we do things and the reason why we do things is focused on eternity. We live in time but our hearts are set on what is timeless. We are creatures who are mortal but we have an immortal soul. We are human creatures but we are made in the divine image and likeness. We are in this world but our home is in Heaven.
So it is that mystery of being in time and still being timeless, and that is the mystery of Jesus Christ. It is the mystery into which each of us has been baptized. And it is the mystery which each one of us is to embrace and to live with every action of our lives so that everything that we do is done with love. Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, tells us that love does not come to an end; it is truly timeless. It is what we will continue to do for all eternity, provided that we enter into Heaven. That is what we are called to: to be able to live in this world, but to love in this world with the love of God Himself - which is eternal, perfect, and timeless.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.