The shortness of life

By Fr. Edward Looney | For The Compass | July 27, 2022

Many people spend a lot of time behind the windshield of their car. They commute to and from work every day. They might have to drive to visit family or run errands. Whenever you get behind the wheel, you never know what will happen. It’s why we take out insurance on our cars and even on our lives.

Once, while driving to a commitment, I witnessed an accident take place. It was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. The car attempted to cross the highway and was t-boned by the oncoming driver. In a moment, I had to avoid the accident. When I read the newspaper the next day, I learned that one driver was killed. When I read that, I wondered if that lady was prepared to die that day. Whenever I cross that intersection, I always remember that day, that driver, and remember tempus fugit, memento mori; “time is fleeting, remember death.”

The responsorial psalm for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps 90). The Liturgy of the Hours, a daily prayer of the Catholic Church prayed by priests, deacons, religious and the laity, has a different translation: “Make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

Both translations emphasize the brevity of life. A person facing a terminal diagnosis or someone who lost a loved one suddenly or tragically knows this reality. Tomorrow is not promised. Today is a gift.

When the Lord teaches us to number our days aright or makes us know the shortness of life, we will begin to live differently. Every day and every experience will be treasured. There is a spiritual mindset that comes with this too.

You may be familiar with the phrase “state of grace.” A believer is in the state of grace when he or she is not conscious of grave sin. If a person should commit serious sin, it is important to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation as soon as possible to restore oneself to that state of grace for the sake of their eternal salvation. Another way a person might choose to live differently, aware of life’s shortness, is to make amends with those whom we hold grudges against or find it difficult to forgive. There are many people who regret the last harsh words they said to someone whom they never saw again because of life’s shortness. Ask for forgiveness and let go of anger and hurt.

Live your life today with the awareness that it might be your last. Be grateful for your blessings. This is the wisdom of heart the Lord teaches us as we number our days aright.

Fr. Looney pastors the Catholic parishes in Brussels and Lincoln/Rosiere. He hosts the podcast “How They Love Mary.”

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