'Make us know the shortness of life that we may gain wisdom of heart.' Psalm 89 gets Msgr John Devine thinking what's important and what's not.
My mother often said, ‘Life is short’. I wondered what she was talking about. At the time I thought she’d had a long life. Now I see things differently. She died not much older than I am now. It’s said that youth is wasted on the young. When I was young, I assumed there to be an endless progression of years ahead of me. I was impatient for the best years I imagined lay ahead to arrive quickly. Rarely did I savour the moment. The future couldn’t come quickly enough.
In the psalm for the 19th Sunday of the Year, we read: ‘You sweep men away like a dream, like grass which springs up in the morning. In the morning it springs up and flowers; by evening it withers and fades. Make us know the shortness of life that we may gain wisdom of heart.’ (Ps89)
Death concentrates the mind. It’s not just about a biblical day of judgement. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate this wisdom. The realisation that our life is temporary, not permanent, offers a fresh perspective on what’s important and what isn’t.
‘There’s no tow bar on a hearse.’ That’s a pithy variant I recently heard on ‘No pockets in a shroud’. Even the wealthiest come to realise in the end that they are temporary custodians of the fortune they have amassed. They think their wealth is theirs, but they have to leave it behind.
As a priest celebrating funerals I can usually tell how much the dead person was loved. Their wealth, or more modest circumstances, are irrelevant. Their legacy lives in the hearts of those they loved.