Today’s first reading from Ecclesiastes leaves me with a sense of God’s gift of youth while it paints a less favorable picture of old age. The responsorial psalm reminds us of God’s enduring nature and how it serves those of us who are less enduring. The Gospel even draws our thoughts to the end of Jesus’ worldly existence. These readings drive home the fleeting nature of human life. I feel this.
Last weekend I was booking a flight home after a meeting on the west coast. In years past I would have gotten a space on the overnight return flight. I thought about it. I can remember saying to myself, “I am getting too old for this.” I thought about how I can no longer function well without sleep and realized how unproductive the next day was likely to be. Hoping to be useful at least in the afternoon I booked a bed for the night and the first flight out the next morning.
My youngest son moved out of the house last fall. He stays in contact and I hear about a life that is very busy and very exciting which involves living on only a few hours of sleep. I remember being the same way. I notice the difference that age brings. My son sees himself as indestructible. I see myself as dust.
What I do share with my son is we both let our work grow out of what is in our hearts. We both are following our passions, the things that matter most. I see the excitement my son finds in self-fulfillment. It reminds me of myself at 20. Again I notice the difference that age (and 23 years of marriage) brings. I move slower as in the Old Testament passage, and I have also learned the importance of seeing that fulfillment is not limited to myself.
It is interesting how the independence of my son has changed both of us. I was concerned about how life would be with no children left at home. I am pleased to see how heading off in different directions has, in both of our cases, allowed us to identify the things in our lives that are important and give us the environment to follow our hearts in new directions.
I look at today’s readings. I think about how changes can leave us yearning for the past, for a time that was more easily understood and more under our control. I see the readings leading me in different direction. I see them as a call for finding our new place in a changing world.
I pray today for wisdom in finding my place. I pray for courage in moving forward. I pray that the recognition of my mortality keeps me focused on the things that really matter during the short time that I have.
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