I received a number of inquiries about the charge I gave before the benediction during the season of Lent. The words of Swiss moral philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel have a way of awakening us:
Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those
who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.
We are all familiar with the Latin phrase car pe diem (“seize the day”). What Amiel gives us is a direction to gripping the day. It is directed to others, to lifting the hearts of those on the same shadowy slog of life we find ourselves tredding.
And there is a time element here, a sense of urgency. “Time’s up!” Jesus said when he emerged from his struggle with Satan in the wilderness. “God is moving here. Trust this news and turn your life around.” Not tomorrow. Not next month. Today!
I was struck on Ash Wednesday three months ago, as I was putting ashes on the foreheads of a 9 year old boy, just how fragile life is. This young one, with his mom waiting for her ashes behind him, this child too came from dust and to dust shall return. It was haunting, of course, as I whispered in my head, “And may that return to dust be after his parents.” We have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those traveling this dark journey with us. Oh Lord, teach us with the psalmist how to number our days that “we might gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90:12).
Be swift to love, make haste to be kind. Perhaps Amiel, orphaned at an early age, isolated at the University of Geneva from the aristocratic patronage that dominated Swiss culture in the mid 19th century, experienced some expressions of mercy himself, or perhaps he just longed for it. Whatever he knew existentially, he breathes an urgency verbally.
The apostle Paul talks of good timing when he declares “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). I remember when I was a boy and had a fight with my dad. Even in high school, I’d be in my room, head on my pillow still a little steamed. Dad would knock on the door and come in two steps. “I’m sorry we got in a tussle. I want it to be better.” “Whatever.” But maybe looking back I cherish that embodiment of Paul’s words that somehow found their way into this math professor’s psyche. He died when I was 36. Maybe as father’s day approaches all of us might consider the imperative that calls out to us. Life, indeed, is short and the clock is ticking to be kind, to love, to write that not saying “let’s start over,” Is there kingdom work you’re being charged with today?
There has been a lot of discussion in theological circles the last 20 years about the intensely eschatological nature of Jesus’ ministry. “Eschatological” is a fancy word about heaven pressing in upon earth, the future consummated Kingdom shining light on our present. Our Lord did have a passion to get us to see what was vital and to act on it, to indeed turn. “Time’s up!” What time is it for you?
“Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” – Jesus, Mark 1:15