Teach us, O Lord, to count our days
We leave the maternal womb and enter into this world; after childhood we enter adolescence; we leave adolescence for youth, youth to mature age and old age. Finally, the time comes to leave this world to which we have grown fond of perhaps to the point of deeming it to be the final abode and not wanting anymore to leave it. Yet on this earth our aspiration to the fullness of joy and life is continually frustrated.
When, with disenchantment, we consider the reality, we check everywhere for signs of death—diseases, ignorance, loneliness, frailty, fatigue, pain, betrayals—and our conclusion is: no, this cannot be the definitive world; it is too narrow, too marked by evil. Then the desire to roam beyond the narrow horizon wherein we move emerges in us; we even dream of being abducted to other planets where maybe we are freed from any form of death.
In the universe we know, the world to which we long for does not exist. To satisfy the need for the infinite that God has put in our heart, it is necessary to leave this land and embark on a new exodus .
We are asked for a new exit, the last—death—and this frightens us.
Even the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, they heard Jesus who spoke of his exodus from this world to the Father (Lk 9:31). They were seized by fear. “They fell with their faces to the ground, and were so afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, and said, arise and be not afraid” (Mt 17:6-7).
From the third century there appears, in the catacombs, the figure of the shepherd with the sheep on his shoulder. It is Christ, who takes by hand and cradles in his arms the person who is afraid to cross alone the dark valley of the death. With him, the Risen One, the disciple serenely abandons this life, confident that the shepherd to whom he/she has entrusted his/her life will lead him/her towards lush meadows and quiet streams (Ps 23:2) where he/she will find refreshment after a long tiring journey in the desert of this dry and dusty earth.
If death is the moment of encounter with Christ and an entry into the wedding banquet hall, it cannot be a dreaded event. It is something we expect. The exclamation of Paul: “For me, dying is gain. I desire greatly to leave this life and to be with Christ” (Phil 1:21, 23) should be uttered by every believer.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Teach us, O Lord, to count our days.”