“You turn man back to dust, saying,
“Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night.
You make an end of them in their sleep; the next morning they are
like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.”
At times used in funeral liturgies, Psalm 90 stresses the brevity of our life on earth by providing images such as grass that grows then quickly withers and fades and the image of a decayed body returning to dust. Time for God is different than for us: what we see as a lifetime is merely a day from the divine perspective. The Book of Wisdom instructs us that God’s ways are not always our ways. Scarcely do we understand the things of the earth, so how much more difficult is it to grasp the things of heaven?
One reality that Jesus had to repeatedly emphasize is the cost of being a disciple. While the mother of James and John had ambitions for them to be seated in places of honor at the heavenly court, Jesus rebukes them and their mother for focusing on the benefits of discipleship instead of its requirements – to partake of the cup of suffering that Jesus would endure on the cross. Jesus knew his days in this world were limited and needed apostles who would drop everything to follow him: wives, family relations, homes, etc. It is not that Jesus wants us to literally hate our parents or siblings, but he wants anyone serious about being his follower to know that their primary relationship must be their covenant with the Lord.
In an interesting second reading from Philemon, Paul takes Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, under his wings while they are both imprisoned. Paul now considers Onesimus a disciple and returns him back to Philemon with the hope “that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.” The Lord can call anyone in any place under any circumstance, as long as they are ready to make him first in their lives. May we have the grace to do the same, knowing our time in this world is fleeting.