I confess that the summer is my forever-favorite time of year. The longer days are such a delight. To wake up to the sun, and occasionally, to get back to my house while the sun is still up, are simple, yet sweet, pleasures. I wonder how much of that fair-going, beach-time, long-day love comes from the forty-seven years of my life spent either receiving or giving an education. The “first day of vacation” is as loud for me at 60 as it was for me at 16. And the opposite is true of the passage of the summer: “school is starting” is also loud. It can be very exciting…and yet can’t compare with the first days of childhood
freedom, can it?
But here we find ourselves, fifty-two days into the ninety some days of summer. Today is a full forty minutes shorter than that first day of summer, the 21st of the solstice. And this next week is the last full week for our children at St. Mary Magdalen School, as they will be back in the classrooms on the 21st, with our Pleasant Valley School children returning a week later on the 28th.
I myself will be returning for the last time (I think) to the seminary to teach on August 26th. At 60 years, I can feel in my bones, in my energy level, in the small changes, adding up each year, the passage of time. As a few of you know, I visited the rector at the seminary early in the summer to step down as a faculty member. I have taught there for twenty years, since the fall semester of 1999. My assignment was only for fourteen years, but it was good and important work, and I was happy to carry on, especially as I have been able to remain so close to the seminary while pastoring at Padre Serra. I will teach one last course, Beginning Greek, as it so happens, and then hang up my hat. It was a good run, a happy one, with lots to look back on with pleasure and satisfaction. I set it aside, very much at peace with the decision.
I’m also aware that its part of the human process of fading. We spend our early years focused on becoming, our middle years on trying and, perhaps, succeeding, and then our later years on stepping back again, hopefully reflecting. So when I ponder the dying of the summer, the movement towards shorter and cooler days, and the passing of months and years, it seems so timely to hear our Lord Jesus speaking, in today’s Gospel, of being “ready to open immediately when the master comes and knocks.”
Will we, can we, ever be ready for the Lord’s return? The days of our lives are numbered, though they seem limitless when we are young. But we age, and the body reminds us, without subtlety, that there aren’t so many days as we might have thought. If we are reflective people, we might well ask ourselves “What is the purpose of the time we have?”
And Jesus instructs us of a Master who returns, a keeper of our days, who hopes to find us awake and attentive to the welfare of His household. And so I ask myself, in these early fading days of summer, how attentive am I, really, to readiness for the Lord? There is an urgency in Jesus’ words: “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Luke 35:40).
Can I encourage you, in these last days of vacation, to consider that the preparation for a new school year is nothing when weighed against the readiness for the Lord? Is there a selfless act waiting to be done, a personal quirk to set aside, a lost soul needing our finding? Is there an awareness of the holy presence of God awaiting our attention? Is there a personal fault to overcome, an undeveloped talent to grant attention? Give it some thought and consider one big thing or a few small ones to grant some attention and effort.