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Walking Across Life’s Stage

November 9, 2020

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90: 12). 

After learning of his wife’s death, Shakespeare’s McBeth comments on the fleeting nature of life: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage . . .”   The Scripture lessons this week echo the truth that we need to make the most of our time on earth because we could meet our maker at any time.[1]  It is a recurrent theme in these last few weeks of the church year. 

Compared to eternity, the four score or so years that we spend on earth is but a nanosecond on the eternal clock—less time than it takes to walk across a stage. To say that life on earth is “fleeting” is a big understatement.  

Like most of the prophets, Zephaniah warned people that they needed to prepare for the end. He sought to warn them that there would be a reckoning—a time when they would be held accountable.  Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of Josiah, the last good king of Judah.  Under Zephaniah’s tutelage, Josiah enacted many reforms following the reign of the evil king Manasseh.  Zephaniah inspired a revival by warning that “the day of the Lord is near” (Zephaniah 1: 7), predicting the fall of Judah, which happened after Josiah’s death in battle in 609 B. C.   Judah fell to   Babylonian rule almost immediately thereafter.  But Zephaniah’s prophecy also foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah, and/or the ultimate judgment at Christ’s second coming.  

Moses, the author of the oldest psalm, confirmed that while we have a limited time on earth, God is not limited by time; he is eternal.  We should use the time we have wisely, and not live only for the moment, but keep an eternal perspective: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.  . . . A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by . . . yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death. . . Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90: 1-2, 4, 5a, 12). The time will come when we will be held accountable.

Paul continues the theme of the transitory nature of life, inspiring the Thessalonians to take heart and to be ready: “[T]he day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night . . . But you, brothers and sisters are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.  You are all children of the light and children of the day. . . Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4, 11).

In the parable of the loaned money, Jesus explains that one day we will be held accountable for what we do during our lives (Matthew 25: 14-30).  When we are adopted into the family of God the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us. The Spirit walks alongside us and guides us, making sure that we have what we need to accomplish our tasks.  He provides the gifts, talents, and abilities we need to serve God. He helps us, and he holds us accountable for how we use the time, gifts, and talents we are given.  

If you do nothing with those talents and abilities (bury them in a hole in the ground), you have not done what God wants you to do, and you will be held to account.  But if you use your God-given talents and abilities in the service of God, you will hear those precious words at the end of your life on earth: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25: 23).  

Don’t complain that you don’t possess an ability or talent you that you wish you had and that you envy in others.  Instead, thank God for making you who you are—a unique person, loved by God, with special skills that can be honed and used to further his kingdom.  Use the wonderful gifts that God has given you for his glory, not yours.

Prayer: “Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your saving help. Let our work always find its origin in you and through you reach completion. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” 

(Shorter Christian Prayer: The Four Week Psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours, (1974), Catholic Book Publishing: New York, p.59).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost are Zephaniah 1: 7-16; Psalm 90:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11; Matthew 25: 14-30

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