Rejoice, young man, while you are young,
and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.
Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes,
but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
Banish anxiety from your mind,
and put away pain from your body;
for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Remember your creator in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come,
and the years draw near when you will say,
"I have no pleasure in them;"
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars are darkened
and the clouds return with the rain;
in the day when the guards of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent,
and the women who grind cease working
because they are few,
and those who look through the windows see dimly;
when the doors on the street are shut,
and the sound of the grinding is low,
and one rises up at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song are brought low.
Then one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road;
the almond tree blossoms,
the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails;
because all must go to their eternal home,
and the mourners will go about the streets;
before the silver cord is snapped,
and the golden bowl is broken,
and the pitcher is broken at the fountain,
and the wheel broken at the cistern,
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the breath returns to God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.
You turn men back into dust
and say: 'Go back, sons of men.'
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night. (R./)
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. (R./)
Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
Show pity to your servants. (R./)
In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands. (R./)
All the crowd were amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was astonished at all that he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
"Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth." The author seems upbeat about life when he writes those words, but then he turns away from the joys of youth and paints a gloomy vignette of old age and death. He describes lonely old folk, sitting silent all day long, staring into space. The darkness refers to failing eyesight; the idle grinders are teeth that have worn away; all the singing maidens who were joyful in youth are singing no longer. This text is a reminder not to neglect people who are burdened with the pains of old age. One day we too will join their ranks and be in need of help. In this odd way, this can be an inspirational text. And there is a glint of hope in the final saying that, "the breath returns to God who gave it."
Faith tells us that Jesus is always present with the lonely and the dying. He tried to prepare his disciples for the difficult times ahead, when "the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of men." If they failed to understand this, it was because they did not want to believe their ears. They were afraid to ask him about it again, in case he repeated what they thought he said. At any rate as they came closer to Jerusalem Jesus repeated the same warning. Hope for new life with God had to go through the gates of death. Christians have hope for the future to help them bear the crosses of life and arrive at life's eternal possibilities.
Admiration can be fickle, here one day and gone the next. The gospel refers to a time when all were full of admiration for everything Jesus did. He had just healed an epileptic boy and all were amazed at what God had done through him. But their support would soon fade, and Jesus knew he would suffer the same fate of many prophets before him. So at the very height of his fame he tells his disciples, "the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men."
Popular admiration meant little to Jesus. He was driven by the desire to do God's will, to complete his selfless work. He felt compelled to go to Jerusalem, dangerous as it was, because that city must hear his message, even if it led to his death.
What really motivates us? We are called to make the priorities of Jesus our own, to be about God the Father's business, to do God's will with whatever gifts and opportunities we have. This will bring not just the momentary pleasure of applause but the deeper joy that comes from living the real purpose of our lives.