Finding God in the Seasons of Life

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt
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Summer’s almost over, about to give way to fall. I mourn the passing of summer. For lots of reasons it’s my favorite season. I enjoy the longer, brighter days, the warm, even hot and humid weather, the opportunity to be outside more often, the casual clothes and the relaxed schedule. Summer . . . what’s there not to like?

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Every season has its own charms though; there’s something to like at every time of the year.

Fall of course is popular for its sparkling, clear, less humid days, the beautiful foliage in our area and around the county, the predictable routine of work and school, the heart-warming celebration of Thanksgiving, and football.

Winter, with its long dark days and sometimes dangerous weather is the most challenging of seasons for me, and for many others. But even winter has its rewards – the excitement of the holidays, the beautiful liturgies of Advent and Christmas, the pleasure of gathering with family and friends, relaxing in front of a warm fireplace, cozy sweaters, and comfort food. For some people basketball and hockey provide a useful diversion to the doldrums of winter.

And spring brings with it new life and hope. The lengthening days and warming weather with the blooming of flowers and trees, the opportunity to awaken from our self-imposed hibernation and escape the confines of our homes, lots of sacramental and social celebrations, the anticipation of vacation, and the return of baseball are all hallmarks of spring.

It strikes me that the seasons of the year are paralleled in the seasons of life, each of which is different, each having its own challenges and rewards.

As we mature we traverse the joyful exuberance of childhood, the spontaneous and sometimes reckless awakening of the teenage years, the strength and idealism of young adulthood, the calm confidence and achievement of middle age, the perspective and serenity of our senior years, the declining health and humbling dependence of our final days.

As I type this I can hear Frank Sinatra singing in the background, “When I was seventeen, it was a very good year . . . When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year . . . When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year. . . But now the days grow short; I’m in the autumn of the year.” In Frank’s song he defined his progress in life by the women who came his way – “small town girls, city girls, and blue-blooded girls of independent means.” But for Frank, every year was apparently a very good year.

For a life to be truly fulfilled, however, there’s got to be more than beautiful women and fine wine, although there’s certainly nothing wrong with either one. The Scriptures, benefiting from God’s inspiration, also address the varied experiences of life. The Book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant . . . God has made everything appropriate to its time.” (Eccl 3:1–15)

Make no mistake, life is passing quickly and death is on the horizon. Since I live in a cemetery, and often walk through the cemetery, I’m reminded of that frequently. The perspective is humbling, but helpful.

When I returned home to Pittsburgh recently I visited my mom and dad’s grave to remember and pray. I’ll be buried there someday too. My name’s already on the stone with two dates inscribed: My birth date, April 1, 1948; and the date of my Priestly Ordination, July 21, 1973. There’s one empty line, room for only one more date – the date of my death, yet to be determined by God, but certainly drawing closer and closer all the time.

When the day of reckoning finally comes, what’s essential, what really matters, is what has happened between those two dates – our birth date and death date. That why it’s important, as we process through life, to stay in touch with God, to be aware of His presence and to discern His plan for us every step of the way.

Life is a puzzle, and every piece of the puzzle means something; each piece adds something to the whole picture. I wonder, as you think about your life’s journey, can you find God’s hand in the birth of a child, in the disability of that child, in a graduation, in a marriage or divorce, in the loss of a job, in the purchase of a new house, in the betrayal of a friend, in a battle with addiction or abuse, in a personal moral failure, in a serious health problem, in the death of a loved one? Remember what we learned in Ecclesiastes: “God has made everything appropriate to its time.” Of course it takes faith to understand that.

The changing of the seasons gives us a perfect opportunity to reflect upon the changes we encounter in life. Some questions to ponder: What’s your favorite season of the year? And what’s your favorite season of life? Given the opportunity, would you like to be younger, or older, or just the way you are? In the many experiences of life, good and bad, can you discover God’s presence? Can you discern God’s plan for you? Are you able to accept God’s will? Can you find the graces and blessings hidden in every season of life?