Because of the time and travel demands of his position, the 55-year-old business executive had missed too many of his children’s birthdays, football and hockey games and recitals; he was not home many evenings during the week when kids need their dad. And when he was home, he was closeted in his office with his laptop and phone.
Then he came across an interesting statistic: The average person lives to be about 75 years old. Multiply 75 by 52, the number of weeks in a year, and the total is 3,900. That’s 3,900 Saturdays in the average life span. Doing more quick math, he realized he had about a thousand Saturdays left until he turned 75. His computations were a wake-up call.
So he went to a toy store, several in fact, and purchased one thousand marbles – one for each Saturday until his 75th birthday. He kept the marbles in an array of jars that lined the wall of his office. And every Saturday, he removed one marble to remind him to make that day count. And he did. Watching the number of marbles diminish helped him focus on the important things of life.
And then, one Saturday, twenty years later, he had one marble left. Rather than feeling sad, he felt gratitude for the wonderful memories of those one thousand Saturdays with family and friends – and saw the unknown number of Saturdays ahead of him as extra gifts from God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers several short parables and images to emphasize the preciousness of the gift of time. We tend to carry on our lives as if we are immortal, that we will live forever, and that we have “all the time in the world.” But we DON’T have all the time in the world – there are a fixed number of “marbles” in our lifetimes. While we pay little or no attention to the reality that one day we will die and carry on as if we will live forever, the fact is that life is fragile and fleeting. Jesus calls us to put the other person before ourselves, to realize the consequences of what we do (or fail to do) has on others, and not insist that our good and honourable “intentions” justify our failings.
To follow Jesus is to take on his attitude of service to those we love, to realize our individual responsibility to protect and maintain the earth and world we all share, to appreciate that the blessings that God has entrusted to us are for the good of all and not just for our own benefit. Christ calls us to possess the generosity of heart that enables us to recognize him in others and treat one another accordingly. If we have truly embraced the spirit of the Gospel, we are always conscious of the brevity of this life and live our days in humble gratitude for these days and joyful anticipation of the life to come.