I doubt that anyone of my generation can listen to the reading
from Ecclesiates without hearing the famous song "Turn, Turn,
Turn" by Pete Seeger of the Byrds. On the off chance that you
aren't familiar with it, this link will take you to the lyrics and
a cut of the song: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/byrds/turn+turn+turn_20026419.html
Seeger drew the lyrics from Ecclesiates, though he used the King
James Bible so the phrasing is a little different from our reading
today. But he seemed to get stuck on something that used to bother
me about the reading. On a casual inspection, the reading seems
to place some good things (peace, healing, love) in equipoise with
some bad things (war, killing, hate). Seeger solved that problem
by adding a non-Biblical coda where he concluded: "a time for
peace, I swear it's not too late." With that, the song became
a sort of peace anthem and I can recall regularly singing it at
the Newman Center (St. Paul's) in Madison, Wisconsin in the late
1960's and early 1970's as I was growing up.
But does God really balance off war and peace, love and hate and
killing and healing as if he were indifferent to which one has the
upper hand? It doesn't seem to me to be a satisfactory response
to the situation in Darfur to shrug one's shoulders and say: "Well,
I guess that's what the Bible means about a time for war, hate and
The key to solving the riddle lies in the last sentence of the reading
where our human inability to fully know God's ways is referenced.
We all do bad things, we all endure bad things, we all witness bad
things. Why does God have this happen? The answer surely lies in
the Fall and original sin, but that doesn't mean that God doesn't
love us. We are all human with our myriad shortcoming and God knows
this. But as humans, Catholics and Christians, our duty is to try
to respond virtuously to sin whether it be our own or the sins of
others. In that way we can live out the redeeming grace of Jesus.
We won't ever be perfect but hopefully we can earn an "A"