Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly;
when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails;
because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
As someone who constantly tries to skip to the end of a reading, sure I’ve read each passage hundreds of times, God’s call in the scripture always finds a way to slow me down. Today it is the very last line of a passage that is a reminder that the very breath within my lungs is a gift.
How can I remember that the very life I am living is not my own in a concrete way? The best way for me to illustrate this is when I look at my children. They are gifts to be sure, but I must remember they are not truly mine. They, and we all, are God’s first and will return to God. Each of us, every day, is on a path of returning to God. It leads me to heed today’s scripture and ask who and how I can celebrate this gift of others?
—Emily Schumacher-Novak lives in Milwaukee, WI, and works in Jesuit Higher Education and Ignatian Spirituality.
You are all we have. You give us what we need.
Our lives are in your hands, O God, our lives are in your hands.
—Francis Patrick O’Brien, © 1992, GIA Publications Inc.