24 September, Saturday – Age of Youth

24 September

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Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8

Rejoice in your youth, you who are young;
let your heart give you joy in your young days.
Follow the promptings of your heart
and the desires of your eyes.

But this you must know: for all these things God will bring you to judgement.

Cast worry from your heart,
shield your flesh from pain.

Yet youth, the age of dark hair, is vanity. And remember your creator in the days of your youth, before evil days come and the years approach when you say, ‘These give me no pleasure’, before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;

the day when those who keep the house tremble
and strong men are bowed;
when the women grind no longer at the mill,
because day is darkening at the windows
and the street doors are shut;
when the sound of the mill is faint,
when the voice of the bird is silenced,
and song notes are stilled,
when to go uphill is an ordeal
and a walk is something to dread.

Yet the almond tree is in flower,
the grasshopper is heavy with food
and the caper bush bears its fruit,

while man goes to his everlasting home. And the mourners are already walking to and fro in the street

before the silver cord has snapped,
or the golden lamp been broken,
or the pitcher shattered at the spring,
or the pulley cracked at the well,

or before the dust returns to the earth as it once came from it, and the breath to God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. All is vanity.

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Luke 9:43-45

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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Remember your Creator in the days of your youth

Sometimes when I look at my little baby boy, I wonder what kind of world he will inherit, what experiences he will have, what kind of environment he will grow up in. He is certainly a spirited little chap as it is, and sometimes when he launches himself out of my lap, I think of how he will launch himself into life the same way: headlong, with total abandon, and with his entire being.

Is this not how we approached life in our youth, and we perhaps still do? Of course, as we grow older and (hopefully) wiser, we launch ourselves with a little less abandon, with more insurance than assurance. Because as we grow older, we realize that we are moving towards the other end of life, and closer to meeting our Maker than we were before. But try telling that to your children, to be careful of life, and chances are you’d be greeted with rolling eyes, and remarks of our “yester-youth”.

Youth is a wonderful phase of life: never are we more energetic, more self-assured, more optimistic than this period. We believe we possess the Midas touch, that whatever we embark on will be met with success. Poised between a period of relative freedom and familial responsibilities, life seems rosy. It is a good thing, though as with all things, too much of a good thing is well, not so good. If we do not check ourselves in our youth, complacency sets in. With complacency, we could become spiritually “lazy”: our God-given spark is not switched on and could well be extinguished in time. In time, we grow old and realize that we are at the other end of life.

Today’s reading reminds us that the “dawn of youth is fleeting”. While we have the energy and the spirit, we should put them to use, not just for our own sakes, but for God’s sake. As Pope Francis said in his World Youth Day address, we need to offer the best of ourselves. We cannot afford to be “couch potatoes” as Pope Francis puts it. We need to “get on our bikes” for there is God’s work out there to be done. As a beloved priest once reminded me, God’s church is out there. Are we equipped to do what needs to be done? Most definitely, for even as God created us, He imbued within us special gifts that we would be able to put to use when He calls us.

It is so easy to take a back seat, thinking that there are other people out there who will carry this mantle. But we would have built nothing with our tools, and nothing is what we will feel if we don’t achieve anything. Nothing is the answer we would give God when He calls us to account for our lives. We are not born in this world for nothing. We are all little seeds of something that God planted, each capable of coming to full bloom. Again, as our Holy Father said, “When He calls us, He is thinking about everything we have to give, all the love we are capable of spreading. His bets are on the future, on tomorrow. Jesus is pointing you to the future.” We are the future, and Jesus is betting on us that we can make a difference.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

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Prayer: Holy Lord, we pray that our spirit may not be quietened and complacent, rather let us burn within with the fire of the Holy Spirit, to be called into action to make our mark in this world for the better.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for believing in what we are each capable of. We thank you for the people and experiences that have touched our lives, and we thank you for the ability to touch others in the same way. We pray that they will see You manifested in our actions, as we see You in theirs.

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