At the end of the first reading from the book of Ecclesiastes is a verse that sums up both of the readings for Mass:
“The dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”
The entire reading from the book of Ecclesiastes today, is beautiful, but it is also a forewarning of things to come. And, so it was with the gospel today as well. Jesus warned his disciples of what was going to happen to him, in the near future. But they didn’t understand it. This is the way that we started out in life too. There was a lot of things about life we didn’t understand very well either. The first reading talks about our youth:
“Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment. Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting.”
When we are young we think we are going to live forever. We have all the time in the world, and there are numerous possibilities open to us. That our lives will become what we make of it. Most of the time, young people are happy. They love being with other people. They are more accepting of people and do not easily judge them. Most of the time our youth actually have their hearts in the right place, and genuinely love people for who they really are.
But, somewhere through the years, many of us have become too jaded, too judgmental, too and not as trusting of others. We’ve been hurt too many times to open ourselves up to love others in the same way that we did when we were young. We are wary of strangers and we guard our involvement with people that we do not know. Life loses much of its joy. That is what the rest of the first reading is about. This verse summarizes it pretty well:
“When one waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed.”
The joy in living can dissipate slowly over a long period of time, until everything seems futile. What was the point of life? Why do we work so hard and struggle so much of the time? What was the point of it all?
“And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity!”
Every thought, feeling, emotion or human experience is sooner or later expressed in the bible. Just these words alone should help us to not feel alone. Others have gone through the same things we have. We share many of the common experiences, no matter what culture that we live in, our age, or position in society. There is a bond there, that is timeless.
Jesus is warning his disciples of his own suffering and death that would be coming soon, but they could not understand it. The future is like a mist that you can’t see through, and you do not know what is in it. In the mist of the unknown, our fears lie. But, Jesus knew the future and was not afraid. He was not afraid of suffering or even death.
There can be a deep sense of peace in in the midst of the turmoil, strong emotions, and fluctuating life circumstances though. This deep sense of peace is such a beautiful thing. It is a pure gift from God. Grace can permeate anything negative, soothe all our fears and bring a deep down sense of peace, that nothing else in the world can not give. With this gift of grace, we can calmly face whatever lies ahead in the unknown mists of our future. The unknown will no longer frighten us if we dwell in God’s grace.
The gospel today ends by saying that the disciples did not understand the future events Jesus was telling them about, but they were afraid to ask him about it. Why were they afraid? Were they more comfortable not knowing what the future held, than the reality they would soon be facing? Sometimes it is better to know what lies ahead, even if it is not necessarily a good thing, because it gives you time to prepare for it.
Jesus prepared for his impending death with courage, faith, much prayer and confidence in God the Father. He dwelled in such a deep sense of peace about it. We could learn a lot from the Lord. May Jesus help each one of us to face our own future, whatever that may be, with courage, faith, confidence in him and in our heavenly Father. And, may Jesus help us to dwell continuously and safely, in the peace that only he can give.
Daily Mass Readings:
Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8 / Psalm 90 / Luke 9: 43b-45