Ps 49:2-3, 6-7, 8-10, 11
The reading from James is not the only time we will be cautioned against counting on tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that. Or making great plans. No one can count on tomorrow. Tomorrow can be changed in the blink of an eye. We. Our loved ones. Our friends. Our co-workers. Our neighbors. We are all puffs of smoke. When we are gone the memory of us evaporates in the same way that the smoke from candles on a birthday cake dissipates.
The psalm explains.
". . . in no way can a man redeem himself,
or pay his own ransom to God;
Too high is the price
he would never have enough to remain alive always
and not see destruction."
It reminds us of our fundamental human equality.
"For . . . wise men die,
and likewise the senseless and the stupid pass away,
leaving their wealth to others."
It is a shock to realize that one is not indispensible. It is an even greater shock to realize that tomorrow may never come.
The first reading from the breviary yesterday morning was the lyrics of a song composed in the 1950's. It became a major hit for the American folk-rock group The Byrds in 1965. It is no joke to say that this particular rock song has the oldest lyrics ever for a top 40 hit. That is our course Pete Seeger's song to which he added only one word repeated three times: "Turn, Turn, Turn."
"To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season, (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven."
"A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant . . . .
A time to weep, and a time to laugh,
A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time of war, and a time of peace"
You can find the song on You Tube. Just type in Turn, Turn, Turn. You can find the lyrics in Chapter 3 of Ecclesiates. No matter which you choose, it is critical to recall that our time is now. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Our time is now. We are called to use it as best we can. We're called to do the right thing.
This was one of the great songs of the mid-60's. Who woulda' thought? I will confess to having more or less sung the first reading from Ecclesiastes in my head. For the rest of the day. This was not an ear worm about which to complain.
The attached photos are candles, obviously, taken in any number of locations. I prefer black and white photography to color. Certainly if I had to choose to shoot exclusively in one or the other it would be black and white. My first roll of film back in 1977 was ASA 400 black and white. One company makes a camera that shoots only in black and white. The price would leave my credit card black and blue.
The votive candles at the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere in Lyon. These were in the crypt chapel, a space I very much preferred to the overly done and gaudy upper church. In some of the candle stands the candles higher up were seriously bent due to the heat from the lower candles melting them.
These are the votive candles at Old St. Joseph Church on Willings Alley in Philadelphia. Definitely worth a visit when in Philly. Not easy to find as it is tucked away due to anti-Catholic sentiments during the 17th centuries. Founded and built by the Society of Jesus.
One of the candles at the side of the altar at Campion Center
The altar candles in the chapel at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles. Took these when I went out for Ryan's vows last August.
Finally, two candles and a bowl on the table in the men's guest house at the Abbey of Regina Laudis.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD