Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8 “…Before the silver cord is snapped
and the golden bowl is broken, And the pitcher is shattered at the
spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well, And the dust returns to
the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”
Psalm 90: 3-4, 5-6,12-13, 14 & 17 “…Teach us to number our days
aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart...”
Luke 9: 43b-45 “…Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
Today’s readings have a strange feeling to them beginning with the end of
the book of Ecclesiastes. As we approach the end of the Church’s calendar
year, our readings focus on endings as well. In the first reading,
Ecclesiastes is thought to be an instructor, and is summing up the wisdom
of life’s teachings. In the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus tells the
apostles to pay attention; He isn’t going to be with them much longer, for
he’ll be handed over to men. It also says they did not know what he
was talking about.
In the first reading we listen as Ecclesiastes instructs his students to
enjoy their youth while they have it. Be aware that God will bring you to
judgment, which according to Collegeville’s translation means revelation.
His message is upbeat in the beginning of this chapter, but also turns more
solemn - “put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is
fleeting.” Practical and realistic he does not seem to hide from
reality. No longer do his days slip by without meaning. I was
struck by how much of my every-day slides by and I realize I run on auto-pilot
tuning in and tuning out all the time. Since academia time is measured
in semesters, each year I wonder where did that semester go; or, what do
you mean your son or daughter is graduating, it seems they just came here
last year? When we were younger, we wanted time to fly, but now we
wish it would slow down a bit. This might be why we feel a little uncomfortable
listening to the things Ecclesiastes is inviting us to consider. Rushing
from one moment to the next is standard practice. Our natural cycle
relating to time is to ask the question, where do I have to be next; and
the day and the week run together.
What about living in the present moment? Some people in our western
culture have heard of the idea, but mostly we understand being busy.
So the invitation to consider the end of our lives or even the end of time
is counter cultural. This might be why we feel some discomfort in reading
today’s invitation, which asks us to consider life’s ending point. The reading
in Ecclesiastes creates this slowing down to see the world through different
lenses, by using many examples, one of which describes listening to songbirds.
“One waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed.”
Unlike some readings where you have to go back and read it a few times, because
it doesn’t hold your interest, this author causes you to pay attention, because
it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve read before, rather just the opposite.
At the end we hear the familiar line spoken during the Lenten Season, remember
Mankind that you are dust and into dust you shall return, you realize that
life as we know it one day will end. The end of Ecclesiastes,
points towards the day when Jesus will come and make a new covenant with
humankind. At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus is asking the Apostles
to be aware that He will not be living among them in the flesh much longer.
As we consider today’s readings looking through the eyes of seasoned teachers
both Ecclesiastes and Jesus; and as we listen to the hum of our everyday
lives let us consider tuning in to their message today. It is good
to remember once in awhile this message, for we won’t be judged on how busy
we kept ourselves throughout our life. My parents have entered this
'later stage' in life, where they know they can’t do everything they used
to do. Dad thinks twice before he heads down a flight of stairs, knowing
that his breathing will make it hard to climb back up them. Living
in the present moment allows us to consider giving thanks to God for each
“Teach us to number our days
aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”