“I do passionately believe that we must seize the day; remember, ‘Carpe Diem’. We pass this way but once, and may God forgive us if we allow opportunities to go by that we should have seized”. Thus begins an introduction to an important and profound thought penned by Peter Parkinson, a Baptist minister, few if any of my readers will have heard of, who helped start a mission “Caring for Life”, my own church happens to support, that practically supports homeless and vulnerable people. What was interesting to note is that this man is 70 and conscious he is near his end and intent to make a difference in the short time he has left in this life.
Peter continues: “From my mid-teens I have been deeply challenged by Ephesians 5:16… “redeem the time because the days are evil”. The NIV reads, “making the most of every opportunity , because the days are evil”… the word redeeming literally means “reclaiming” … the word time or every opportunity literally means season or era… as the eras or seasons of ones lives pass we must reclaim every moment to serve …”, and serving others is all part of our service to God.
Before moving on, I should do something that we should do when quoting the Bible and that is to consider the context. The verses that precede and follow both talk about wisdom – the need to live wisely and the need to understand the will of the Lord. Also, the second part of our text gives a reason: because the days are evil, and while two Bible versions have it down as desperate days and difficult days respectively, the rest are agreed this is the best translation. It seems to me this adds a further urgency and imperative for us redeeming the time. The truth is, we do not know what the days before us hold and such are the uncertainties of life and the evil in the world, we can not take anything for granted and there will invariably be things happening, often untoward, that we have no control over, so best to make the most of the time while we can!
When I think of “Carpe Diem”, I think of one of my all-time favourite films: Dead Poets Society. While the rationale for doing so wasn’t about serving God, there was the same sense that time for us all is extremely short and we need to make the most of it. The vigorous young men, in their prime of life, which the film’s hero, John Keating, was teaching, would all too soon “be food for worms” but as the poet wrote: “gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying: and this same flower that smiles to-day to-morrow will be dying”, or in other words carpe diem. The lesson that Mr. Keating wished to impress on his young charges, besides an appreciation of poetry, was that they needed to seize the day!
As I look back on life, my biggest regret is that I haven’t always redeemed the time or seized the day, and as I get older and I realise my powers are diminishing, I find there is much less of the day that I can seize as a result. But sacred or secular, the message is obvious for all of us. The time that has gone we can do little about but we can do something the matters with the little time before us. There are umpteen ways we can reclaim the time, according to our circumstances etc., and doing what Caring for Life sets out to do: “providing accommodation, ongoing support, love and friendship, and when necessary, providing that care ‘for life’ – to homeless or vulnerable people” is one way we can do this.