We brothers have been thinking a lot about ‘time’ this year. In fact, we’ve chosen ‘time’ to be the overall theme for our Saturday workshops and for our Lenten video series, which we are filming this week. So it’s – “timely” – that this reading from Ecclesiastes should come up today.
We’ve chosen to think about time because so many people in our culture today wrestle with time. For many there doesn’t seem to be enough time. They race from one thing to the next, always battling the clock, frantically trying to get the items on their “to do” lists finished before time runs out. There seems to be very little time to simply enjoy life, to savor it, and delight in it. And, contrary to what many might imagine about our life here, monks are not exempt from these pressures. We too face the challenge of using time well.
The very important message of Ecclesiastes 3 is this: that God has created time, that it is a gift not a burden, and that there is a time for everything – and it is enough. There is a time and season for everything, the author reminds us: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to break down and a time to build up, a time to throw away and a time to gather, a time to keep silence and a time to speak, a time to weep and a time to laugh. All of these things are necessary and good, and God has made time for each of them.
Furthermore, God has given everyone particular work to do, the author tells us. And there is enough time to do what we have been asked by God to do, to be what we have been asked by God to be. There is time to work and time to rest, time to carry out our tasks and time to play, times to be together and times to be alone, time to accomplish and time to enjoy our accomplishments. All time belongs to God, and there is enough.
Our difficulty with time, then, arises because we over-extend ourselves, we try to have it all and do it all, we fail to discern that which is essential and that which is superfluous. Our lives become over burdened with too many responsibilities, too many relationships, too many interests, too many commitments, too many possessions, too many “priorities.”
Why not make this a time for sorting out your life, for choosing what is essential, for investing only in those activities that have proven value, for uncluttering your living spaces, your closets, your calendar? Why not make this a time for examining your mission and purpose in life, and choosing to do only what enhances and contributes to that mission? Why not make this a time for re-balancing your time and re-distributing your energies and resources?
“For everything there is a time.”
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