First Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 144:1B AND 2ABC, 3-4
R. (1) Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
my mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
LORD, what is man, that you notice him;
the son of man, that you take thought of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days, like a passing shadow.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Gospel: Luke 9:18-22
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
The First Reading is surely one of the most beautiful in the Bible. There is an appointed time for everything . . . a time to be born, and a time to die. I find these words comforting in light of the recent death of my grandmother. Gardener that she was, she knew about the turn of seasons, about planting and uprooting, about keeping and giving away. Though my family members miss her terribly, she was ninety-seven when she died, and I am aware that we can’t ask for much more time than that.
But this verse is less comforting when thinking about other deaths. So often, those who leave us seem to do so much too early, through terrible violence. I think of recent teenage suicides in my community, of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting, of soldiers killed in combat. I think of those lives and I don’t feel the same sort of acceptance that I do at the death of my grandmother. How can we possibly say “It was their time to die”? I just can’t believe that it was their time. Perhaps some can say “These deaths happened for a reason,” but I personally have never found that a comforting phrase in the face of such losses of life. I believe in an omniscient God, but I also believe that our human free will sometimes leads us to make choices that run counter to what God wishes for His children.
And yet the Gospel itself acknowledges this reality. Jesus tells His followers that He will suffer greatly, and be rejected and killed. There’s a message here: Pain happens. It happens to the least blameless among us. We suffer and die, and the people who love us suffer too, watching it happen—particularly if the dying happens before it seems we have even had a chance to live.
But then we have the final line: the Son of Man will be raised on the third day. And this resurrection promise is what keeps me from despair. It doesn’t keep me from pain. It doesn’t keep me from grief, or anger at what feel like tragically ill-timed loss, and it doesn’t need to; I know that God can handle all of my emotion. But it does assure me that the time for dying is not in fact the end. There is life, there is death, and then—wonderfully, miraculously—there will be life again. And when that happens, there will be no more mourning or weeping, only dancing and laughing.
And with that promise, we can keep on going.
When has the thought of the resurrection brought you joy?
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos. You can find out more about her here.