Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years approach of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them; Before the sun is darkened. and the light, and the moon, and the stars, while the clouds return after the rain; When the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, And the grinders are idle because they are few, and they who look through the windows grow blind; When the doors to the street are shut, and the sound of the mill is low; When one waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed; And one fears heights, and perils in the street; When the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, Because man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets; 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. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6)
Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart . . . Fill us at daybreak with your love, that all our days we may sing for joy. (Psalm 90:12-14)
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7)
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)-in other words, before it’s too late. The author of Ecclesiastes goes on to give a poetic description of the infirmities of old age, when “the grinders [teeth] are idle because they are few. . . . All the daughters of song are suppressed [because of hearing loss]; and . . . the almond tree blooms [white hair]” (12:3-5).
When we realize how short life is and resign ourselves to that fact, we can have two different responses as Catholic men. Ironically, they both stem from the same simple reality: We can be alive only in the present moment. So what are these two responses?
A foolish man might conclude, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Without any regard for the consequences of his actions or for the way of life God has ordained, he builds his life around self-gratification.
By contrast, a wise man would use his time on this earth to prepare for eternity. He takes seriously these words from Scripture: “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Psalm 90:12). He neither dwells in the past with regret (“I shoulda, coulda, woulda”) nor borrows trouble from the future with worry: “Have no anxiety at all” (Philippians 4:6,7). Instead, he receives every moment from the hand of God and strives to give it back, loving and serving God with his whole being. Like his foolish counterpart, he too lives in the present moment-but in the love of God right now and in the good that God opens up for him to do.
The foolish person makes the mistake of believing that nothing lasts. The habits we are forming now, whether they tend toward love or selfishness, will endure even as our physical and mental abilities decline. Likewise, the loving relationships we cultivate, especially with the Lord, go on for eternity.
When you find your mind wandering toward anxiety about the future, quietly remember God’s promises (see Philippians 4:6,7) and seek his great love and peace for you in the present moment. And take courage! God is present to you now, and he will be present to you in every moment of your life, whether that life is short or long, whatever your own abilities and limitations are at any given moment.
“Lord, teach me to count my days aright, so that I can gain wisdom of heart. Fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit every day, so that I can respond each day to your call for my life. Fill me afresh with your peace, love, and joy so others can see your life in me.
Maurice Blumberg is Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men Center. Their website is at: (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/).
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. Take a few minutes to read and meditate on the above Scriptures. What do you think God is trying to say to you through them?
- 2. What is your understanding of the Scripture, “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart”?
- 3. In the article, we hear these words: “When we realize how short life is and resign ourselves to that fact, we can have two different responses as Catholic men.” What is your response to the truth of life’s shortness?
- 4. What is your response when you begin to experience anxiety in your life? How often do you typically turn to the Lord vs. trying to tough it out?
- 5. If you are in a men’s group, pray for one another that the Lord will give you the grace to truly “Count your days aright.” Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.