There is an appointed time for everything, a time for every affair under the heavens . . . (Ecc. 3:1)
A lyrical passage in Ecclesiastes tells us “there is an appointed time for everything.” Scripture enthusiasts who like to have a store of short all-occasion quotes on hand, often use this passage to warn the precipitous. It is applied less often to those who wait too long. Still, we all know those who gather endless data before making decisions, who overcook food, who “worry” plants to death or who, in their great need to be thorough, rarely finish anything. The TV world has capitalized on the rich dividends offered by our compulsions. For those in a hurry, it gives the assurance of instant popularity and youthful good looks. For the more leisurely, there are grandiose offers of exotic pleasures associated with living on a perpetual vacation. In our own dealings with others, some of us may have answers before the question has been asked, while others can never give a needed answer at the moment, always leaving others doubtful or even anxious. If it is important that we do not act in haste, it would seem equally important that we do not delay when endeavoring to love God with our whole heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Unfortunately, our difficulties in following the “great commandment” may be rooted in the fact that we do not really love ourselves. The saints would eschew the dubious promises offered by our commercial world. Seeing themselves as they truly are before the Lord, they put their trust in God. With this kind of self-knowledge they can deal with others truthfully too, which is to say, with humility. St. Benedict, in his Rule (Ch. 31), wisely advises, “Let those things which have to be asked for and those things which have to be given, be asked for and given at the proper times so that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.” Jesus himself once suggested that we allow weeds to grow along with good plants lest, while still indistinguishable, the good ones be uprooted too. May our lives be seasoned with this kind of discernment when it comes to knowing the right time.
A wise heart will know the proper time. (Ecc. 8:5)
—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.