Sunday Night Journal — February 29, 2004
When someone begins a sentence with the words “I’m not superstitious, but…” you can be pretty sure he is about to confess a superstition. So let me phrase this a bit more straightforwardly and precisely than that: I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, but I do sometimes interpret events in a way that may attribute more significance to them than is strictly warranted. Of this bent are the thoughts that occur to me as I compose my fifth journal entry for the month of February. We are in a leap year, and February 29 has fallen on a Sunday. We have had five Sundays in our shortest month. When I noticed this, it struck me immediately and irrationally as a good thing. But what difference does it make which month the Sundays fall in? The number of Sundays yet to pass before the end of the world, or the end of one’s own life, is unchanged. And yet it seems somehow a bit of good fortune, or a blessing.
Whatever their names, the number of our days is fixed, and they continue to pass. In contemplating what is left behind as each day ends, I have often conjectured that one of the secrets of the next life might be that what is good in this life would somehow be available to us. Perhaps this is just the sentimentality of one too attached to this world, but it seems difficult to believe that what is truly good and beautiful in earthly life should be gone forever once it has receded in time. My notion of access to all time poses no logical difficulty if it is true that we will be in eternity. But since sin cannot enter the Kingdom, any time spent in sin would truly be gone, irrecoverably: time wasted, in a perfectly literal and permanent sense.
I have been reading—very slowly, a few pages here and there—a book I should have, and wish I had, read years ago, Boswell’s Life of Johnson. I was intrigued to find in it the following prayer from a diary entry made by Johnson on his twenty-eighth birthday; it seems to hint at a similar idea, though considered only with respect to the day of judgement, and not beyond :
Mayest thou, O God, enable me for Jesus Christ’s sake, to spend this in such a manner that I may receive comfort from it at the hour of death, and in the day of judgement! Amen.
Speculation aside, this is an excellent morning prayer for any and every day.
A Word from the Devil on the First Sunday of Lent
Upon hearing today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) I found myself considering the reason why the devil considered himself entitled to offer Jesus all the power and glory of the kingdoms of the world: “…for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”
I don’t think this means that anyone who has worldly power owes it to Satan—there is testimony in the Bible to the contrary—but as we try during Lent to wean ourselves at least a little from the world, we do well to keep in mind that success therein is not necessarily a sign of God’s favor, and might even be the work of an altogether different power.