Friday September 24, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 9:18-22)
When we listen to these words from Ecclesiastes about the appointed time for everything, we have to realize as we look at all the various things he lists that they have all happened in our lives, and yet it is not necessarily by our own choice; in fact, most often it is not. That is precisely the point he is looking at. There are sometimes things that we would like and they are just simply not there. We seek them and cannot find them. And so he is pointing out to us that God has an appointed time for everything; He has placed into our hearts, however, the timeless. The point he is trying to help us understand is that for all of these things (some being good, some being just the opposite) there is a time for them.
But we are not made merely for time; we are made for the timeless. That is why he can say that there is a time for this and there is a time for that and point out the opposites to us, because if it was up to us we would look at all the things in there that seem to be very good to us and we would say, “That’s what I want all the time.” And if we had that all of the time, we could easily get caught up in what is happening in this life alone. But none of us is made for this life alone. We are created in time, but we are created only for a time because we are created ultimately for something which is beyond time. The only way we are even going to be able to begin to grasp that we are created for something which is outside of time is for those things which are of time to be taken away, to have experience of them and then suddenly to have them removed. That is what helps us to be able to realize that we are made for something beyond. As good as these things can be (or on the opposite side, as evil as some of these things can be), we realize that none of them is really the purpose for which we were made. They are good and they are not necessarily to be shunned, however, they are not there to be sought for their own end either because we are not created merely for this world.
We are not created merely for something which has its time because if we look at it very seriously (and it sounds like an oxymoron), if he continued on he would have to say, “There is a time for us.” And the time when we enter the fullness of our being is when we are no longer in time, so the time for mankind is ultimately outside of time. However, in time, we have an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to put into practice what it is that we have learned. The choices are laid out pretty clearly in this reading. There is one choice which is very good, and one which is not. The choice is entirely ours. In this life, it is about making the choices that are going to lead us to eternal life. It is about choosing God and living the choice that we make because we know fully well what the eternal consequences are going to be for us if we choose the opposite.
Now we look at what Our Lord did and what He tells us in the Gospel. Once they come to understand Who He is, the very first thing He tells them after Saint Peter makes that act of faith – “You are the Son of God” – is to say, The Son of Man must suffer greatly, must be handed over, must be put to death, and must rise on the third day. That was Who He was; that was the purpose of His being in this life. But it points, again, to something beyond because it points to our redemption and our ability to be with Him forever. But they had to understand that in this life that was the time, indeed it was the hour, for which the Lord had come, the hour in which He was to suffer and die. But that was not the end.
So, too, when we realize who we are, when we go through all of these things and say, “There are times and seasons, but there is something more,” then we have to look at ourselves and say, “These things have their times and seasons in our lives, but they are not the purpose for which we are created.” They are not the end toward which we are striving. None of them define fully who we are. And so the question is the exact same one that Jesus asked: Who do you say that I am? You need to look into your own heart and you need to come before the Lord and ask that question. You realize that when you go into your heart to ask that question and you strive to find the answer, you will ultimately come to the same realization as Qoheleth did. That is, you are not made merely for time, but God has put into your heart the timeless so that you are made for something beyond. And once you realize who you are, then you have to define it and you have to live it. That is what we see in Jesus and it is what we see in ourselves.
In this world, we deal with the things of time, but we are not made for time. We are made for the timeless, and we have to work through time in order to get there. The choices we make in these times of our lives are the ones that will bring us to the timeless in only one of two extremes. So when we look at Qoheleth pointing out all the opposites that are there in time and in our lives, they are there for us to be able to see that we too have to make a choice, a choice of one of two opposites regarding what is timeless. And once we understand who we are, we know that we are not merely made for the timeless as a generic thing, but we are made for God. We are made for eternal life in heaven; and once we understand it, then we have to embrace it, we have to live it, so that we will be able to have in ourselves the very purpose of our being fulfilled: to live the life of Christ in this life so that we can be with Him forever in the next.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.