Daily Reflection
September 25th, 2004
Deb Fortina
Academic Affairs
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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 moment.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
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