In our old age, in the presence of the Comforter, we will ponder that all our days were grass; they will be mowed down. (Psalm 90, 6). The time of our being harvested is coming; soon we will forget everything, and everyone will forget us (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations).
Sad, but if we plumb in prayer our heart’s memories, tasting again the times we ate our bread in celebration, the times we moistened our food with tears, the mysterious sense that all has been grace will perfume the small scroll of us being rolled up and destined for a fire.
We owe much to the kindness of others. We fell and hands pulled us up. We were hungry and someone fed us; naked, we received clothes; we were sick, and someone visited; we were confused, and someone helped put our lives back together. The mystery of God’s love for us through the actions of others only deepens as we ponder that love came to us despite ourselves, and others loved us despite themselves. “How did You see me hungry?”
We have seen God’s love and compassion in another person’s eyes. We will die but that is all we need do for death (Edna St. Vincent Millay). How can we repay the Lord for His goodness to us, for the cups of salvation received from others that were tinctured with His grace and care? (Psalm 116, 12).
The background music on this Sunday hums for the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola whose spiritual exercise “to attain Love” makes this first point: “Recall to mind the blessings of creation and redemption, and the special favors you have received. Ponder with affection how much God our Lord has done for you, given you what He possesses […] Reflect upon yourself and consider what you should offer. Then pray, ‘Take, Lord, receive my liberty, my mind, my will, my memory. All things I have I received from you. All things to you I now return.’” Let’s not wait for hospice but pray so now.
In Mary Oliver’s poem “The Gift,” she urges her soul be steadfast, that “heaven and earth both are still watching / though time is draining from the clock.” Although her old age slows her down, her task remains to love as she “once loved, deeply / and without patience. Let God and the world / know you are grateful. / That the gift has been given.” (Devotions, 2017, p. 14).
Close your ears to dreary-tongued Ecclesiastes. Since our nurturing in the tabernacle of our mothers’ wombs, our lives have been graced and “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). In our end, all is revealed. Let us die offering up all we have been to God. “It is right and just.”