The minister this Sunday noted how weird it first appears that Matthew 25:31-46 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 were paired together. But a bit of reflection and listening you can see the connections. For in Ecclesiastes, the Teacher (who tradition says is Solomon, which adds a whole layer of thought here) is laying out in the poem the rhythm of life, but in the work as a whole lays out that all that matters is living within, through and out of the Holy Mystery we are one with.
Which brings us into the Gospel of Matthew’s story of the sheep and the goats:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[a] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
-Matthew 25:31-46 (New King James Version)
A much-maligned passage as people focus on the judgment aspect, which the separation is a piece of it, but not the full scope of the passage. For it can be an interior separation as well where the ego (sin) that keeps the connection from the Holy Mystery hidden is finally cut off, and in humility true actions of love are revealed. Those true actions are what is seen in the “When did we see…” And the actions laid out appear simple, but all too often are ignored in our world of deserving/undeserving it calls us all to a different level of living, feeling, acting and experiencing. That is the level of a life lived out of love. When there is a need, we fill it and build the relationship from there. It is the action of interdependence.
But how do we get there?
It comes from a deeper listening of the words of Ecclesiastes. So let us enter the Lectio Divina to see how the Holy Mystery speaks into our hearts. Get comfortable for you will be with the poem three times. Breathe deeply feeling the stress of the day wash away from your system, the sludge blocking your energy burn away. Relax into the chair, feel it as it evaporates into a cushion of years past, as you are within the midst of others listening and learning this teaching.
Prepare yourself for the first hearing, as you hear these words sit with them. What memories/images of your life of joy come up? Sit with those memories for a time.
Now hear these words:
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
-Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (New King James Version)
Now hear the words a second time, and this time see what images/memories of hope come to your mind. Sit with these a time.
And on the third and final hearing, see what images/memories of you having been loved and expressing love come to the surface, sit with these for a time.
Slowly bring your breathing back to normal, feel the bustle of the past, and the cushion dissolve bringing you back into the now. When you are ready, open your eyes.
Now you may ask how the two connect? Simple those memories, emotions, feelings and images of joy, hope and love you have experienced? That is the Holy Mystery within, that is the wall (ego) that separated you torn down a little. This is where you live out of for the humble answer to “When did I see you…” and know the answer is simply four little letters:
Welcome to 2017.