“God has put the timeless into their hearts” (Eccl 3:11).
Today’s first reading is the powerful poetry of Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for every thing under heaven,” which became the folk song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” composed and first performed by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The song became the anthem for a whole generation of social activists longing for a new world salvaged from the violence and injustice of an older world seemingly trapped in patterns of endless conflict and repression.
The ancient author of Ecclesiastes was also observing the wisdom of the ages – that human life moves through seasons as inevitable as nature itself, from weeping to laughter, killing to healing, grieving to dancing, birth to death. Every generation is caught up in the sweep of these broad patterns. Wisdom lies in seeing beyond this world to the timeless longing God has placed in every human heart.
The Gospel’s universal appeal lies in its capacity to hold both the experience of life’s real hardships and losses and the irrepressible dream of something better, more complete and fulfilling. If this is all there is, life is only pathos and tragedy. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate pattern that underlies all the seasons of human experience. And it promises an ultimate triumph of love over hate, life over death.
It is easy to dismiss this faith as only a dream, and many hard realists in the 1960s saw those advocating peace and love as flower children and hopeless idealists. But, the music of that era, including Seeger’s many songs for justice, have survived their critics and continue to inspire people to work for a better world. Wisdom has children, and their voices will never cease singing.