SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  ECCLESIASTES 11:9-12:8; LUKE 9:43-45  ]

One of the best times in one’s life is certainly youth.  It is great to be young!  But I wonder if all young people feel that way.  The irony of life is that young people cannot wait to grow up.  They want to behave like adults.  Unfortunately, instead of imitating the good examples of adults, they emulate all the bad ones!  As a result, they waste away their youth, and even their future.

Conversely, the old are regretting that they never had a great childhood or enjoyed their life as a youth.  They lament that they missed out the joys, the adventures, the fun and the thrills of growing up.  Most of all, they regret having wasted away their youth.  Instead of making the best of it, they lost golden opportunities where they could have had fun, growth and happy memories. Now it is a bit too late to regret because one cannot turn back the clock.  As the author says, “And the mourners are already walking to and fro in the street before the silver cord has snapped, or the golden lamp been broken, or the pitcher shattered at the spring, or the pulley cracked at the well, or before the dust returns to the earth as it once came from it, and the breath to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. All is vanity.”

Indeed, before the mourners come, let us as young people live a life of wisdom because life is short.  Before you realize it, you would have grown up, married, and taken up more responsibilities in life.  We are all getting old.  No one is getting younger.  Life is short!  The prayer of the psalmist should be ours.  “You sweep men away like a dream, like the grass which springs up in the morning. In the morning it springs up and flowers: by evening it withers and fades. Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart.  Lord, relent!  Is your anger for ever?”

We must reckon that however we live our life now will have an impact on our future and most of all eternity.  So as young people, we must not forget that the way we make use of the opportunities given to us now will determine our happiness in the future.  So it behooves us to decide how best we wish to live the present.  We must not forget the consequences of our actions here and now.  It would be a big mistake to live our lives frivolously and recklessly as if there is no tomorrow.  If we do that, we will look back with regret.  And the worst word in life is “regret.” So if we do not want to live a life of regret and despondency, we must ask how can we live our youthful years purposely, with joy, passion and excitement without getting hurt.  How, then, should we live our days as a youth?

Firstly, young people must learn to cultivate healthy, loving, faithful and sincere relationships. Acquaintances are many, real friends are few.  Most are fair weather friends.   These are not the real friends in life because when you need them, they are not there.  Finding friends whom we can share our life is of course a risk, not easy, and often we become vulnerable and get hurt.  Quite often, especially with the opposite sex, we become too physical in the relationship before we can develop emotional bonds and sharing of the mind.  As a result, we often get played out, hurt and wounded.  Unfortunately, most never learn from the previous relationships.  They plunge immediately into a new relationship, mostly out of loneliness, emptiness, fear and anger. Not surprisingly, those who do not find closure from the previous relationship are bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  This is the tragedy of many young people.

But one cannot do without relationships, either with family, friends or fellow students and colleagues. We need to build healthy and loving relationships.  Life is not all study and work.  For life to be meaningful and rich, we need relationships because we are created by love, in love and for love.  So even whilst doing our work, activities and studies, we must not isolate ourselves completely from people, be so absorbed in our career, studies and ambition that we lose touch with people.  Not only will we end up being alone in life later on but life would be such a chore and a cross.  So having fellowship with good friends and people that you live or work with us is important for cultivating friendship, mutual understanding and support.

Secondly, whether studying or starting out in our career, we should acquire as much knowledge, skills and experience as we can.  The time of learning and acquiring new knowledge and experiences are important for the future.  A time will come when we will be called upon to assume leadership and greater responsibilities.  If we do not try to study as much as we can now, in later years, when we are fully entrenched in our projects and responsibilities, we will not have the luxury to read as much.  Many young people lack foresight.  They want to be in action and start doing without the knowledge.  They do not take their studies seriously.  Later on in life they will realize that they are handicapped by their lack of knowledge, skills and experience to do their job or conduct their business well.  So a student’s time is not to be wasted idling away, doing nothing and being non-productive.  Indeed, many students regret when it is time for them to move on after their studies.  They will see the wiser and smarter students who spent time seriously on their studies graduating and moving up in life, whilst they are left behind.  So, youth is a time of formation.

Thirdly, we must get involved too. There should be involvement, otherwise what we study and learn will simply be an intellectual pursuit, good for the ego but useless for life.  So to enjoy life means that we must be involved, especially when we are called to contribute our talents and services, be it in the church, school or society.  It is when we exercise our talents and put our knowledge into practice that we grow in understanding and in experience.  Better still, we must use such opportunities to grow our leadership skills.  By being involved in social and church activities, we could sharpen our leadership skills and hone them further because all these skills will be useful later on in life.

Most of all, we will feel useful and contributive to society and that we can make a difference in the lives of others.  This sense of usefulness and being able to contribute to humanity makes life worth living.  At least we know that we are not living in vain. This is what gives us passion in life.  To have passion means to have love.  But it is not just a passion for FI or cars or some hobby.  Passion means love for humanity and for God. When we do things for others, for God and for society, we are entering into the love and life of God.  This makes our life expansive and more holistic.  Those who live for themselves cannot find life.  Indeed, at the end of the day, all of us, regardless of our vocation or career are called to live for others, for our loved ones, and beyond, for our society and church and country.

Fourthly, to find life as a youth we must also take risks and be adventurous, but not recklessly and cause harm and destruction to ourselves or to others.  Risks and adventures we must take, but calculated risks, because we need to bear in mind that we are not an island.  What we do, whatever happens to us, will impact society, family and our loved ones; not just ourselves.  Young people need to discover the world for themselves and not be always under the watchful eyes of parents and guardians.  They will make some mistakes but these are part of the learning curve.  We learn more from our mistakes than from our success.

Finally, we are reminded that God must be the center of our lives in all things. There will be judgement here and now on this earth and in the future.  We will suffer the consequences of our follies or reap the rewards of our wisdom.   The author says, “But this you must know: for all these things God will bring you to judgement. Cast worry from your heart, shield your flesh from pain.”  It is not enough to live just for today, or even tomorrow, but for eternity.  Even Jesus, although successful in His ministry, was always conscious of the passion awaiting Him.  We read that “At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men’.”

So let us take the advice of the Preacher seriously.  Let us enjoy our life of youth in a responsible way.  We must not desire to grow up too quickly but go according to the pace of creation.  But at every stage of the journey and in everything, whether studying, working, in relationships, social and voluntary services, let us enjoy life as a whole and not isolate one from the rest.  We must live a balanced life.  Focusing exclusively on one without seeing the others in perspective will lead to a life of misery.  Of course, the weightage for all the different dimensions of life cannot be the same.  When young, the focus is on study rather than on relationships, but none is excluded because all aspects of life are meant to help us grow holistically. When we live this way, we will not end up saying, “Yet youth, the age of dark hair, is vanity. And remember your creator in the days of your youth, before evil days come and the years approach when you say, ‘These give me no pleasure.’”   So just take every stage of life’s journey as it comes, with its joys and woes, struggles and triumphs.  But don’t squander your future away!  And we won’t if we live fully here and now and responsibly.