The Gift of Daily Rhythm

alarm clock

Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. Monks pray. They chant psalms and canticles to give God glory. [Spanish]

Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. Nurses in hospitals see to their patients’ medications. Make notes. Change shifts.

Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. Worksite managers drink coffee out of big tumblers and plan, supervise, order equipment and materials. Chew the fat with customers, architects, engineers. Talk football.

Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. Rehab patients and nursing-home residents contend with their aches, their pains, and their loneliness. They await their meals, their p.t. and o.t., their baths or showers, and their meds. They tune into their tv shows. They hope someone will sign-up for a social-distanced visit. Maybe they read their Bibles and pray.

Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. Students arise, eat cereal or pop-tarts, maybe stress-out about the homework they haven’t done. They get on the computer and try to learn something remotely. They get called-on via Zoom. They get bored. They turn off the camera and fall asleep.

Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. Depressed people suffer, suffer–with every tick-tock minute poking the scalp like sixty little needles, one second after another. Landscape workers sweat in the sun, dirt grinding into the skin of their fingers. At Waffle House, they sling the hash; at Mickey D’s they drop the fries. Truck drivers look through the windshield down the highway and plan their next bathroom/coffee stop. The unemployed wait in agony for e-mails to come.

How could we get through life without the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms? This year with a pandemic has broken our rhythms–which makes us appreciate all the more whatever rhythms we can manage to have. The bishop broke my rhythm pretty badly. Thank you, Lord, for sending me work to do.

The rhythm that makes the passage of time endurable always involves some kind of work. Work makes time a friend, an ally, a partner. On the other hand: when you’re idle, time becomes a mud patch, an enemy, a dark confusing cloud of frustrated non-possibilities.

At Holy Mass tomorrow, we will read the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. What exactly does this parable teach? The main lesson is: the owner of the vineyard is generous. “I am generous,” he said.

We earn our daily bread by the sweat of our brows. We get to sleep the sound sleep of the just by working hard, from dawn to dusk. But did we earn these brows, upon which we sweat? Did we earn these hands we use? Do we receive 24 hours every day because we pre-paid for their delivery?

No. A huge gift came first. We have what it takes to build up a rhythm of life because God gave us us. The idea that I deserve even to exist: that idea is the gravest enemy my spiritual life can have. If I start kidding myself that I somehow gave myself the morning sun; if I start tallying all the benefits and perks that my illustrious efforts deserve, then I run a grave risk. I will find myself standing there with just one little denarius in my hand at the end of the day. When I frown, the Lord will ask me, “Are you envious because I am generous? I have paid you fairly.”

The vineyard owner in the parable was rich, rich in a higher order of magnitude than the laborers he hired. The owner did not deal in loose change. The standard wage for a day’s labor was a denarius. The owner didn’t have any smaller coins. All the workers got the same pay, whether they started at dawn or at 5pm.

The owner did not think twice about it, because a denarius was loose change to him. He needed able-bodied workers in his vineyard, for however many hours he could have them, as many workers as he could find. He had a lot of ripe grapes to pull from the vines.

Some people live in run-down double-wides, and some live in mansions with wall-to-wall carpet and tropical fish tanks. Who really deserves either one? And, in the end, what difference does it make? I could fight all my life to win the esteem of men, to consume daily gourmet meals, to rack-up professional accomplishments and little performance-review trophies. I will still die as naked as I was born.

God gives me today. For free. We will all die wretched and miserable deaths unless we spend the rest of our lives trying to grasp this one simple fact. God gives. God gives the dawn. And 9am. And noon. And 3pm. And the evening.

He gives it all, to everyone, every day, freely.

4 thoughts on “The Gift of Daily Rhythm

  1. An evening hymn to go with this homily:
    “The day thought gavest, Lord, is ended,
    The darkness falls at thy behest;
    To thee our morning hymns ascended,
    Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.”
    Tune: St. Clement
    Words: John Ellerton, 1826-93
    Ann White

  2. Fr. Mark, have read your homily several times (yesterday and today) and I realize that it is very comforting…I can’t exactly put into words why…only know that it is…very much so. Thank you, as always.

  3. When I started reading this shortly after it was posted, I couldn’t read it through. It seemed to be a picture of a very depressing routine of life. I had to revisit it Sunday to get through it. Re-reading it, I saw the futility of our human condition but in the light of God’s Mercy, thankfully. We do find comfort in the rhythm of life and in knowing that God designed us that way, gave us that rhythm as a gift. But it is so easy to abuse that gift, to allow the rhythm of life to become a depressing rut rather than an expression of love for our creator, a continuous daily prayer. So for added encouragement…

    Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. By the grace of God, people caring for people pray for God’s guidance that their efforts to assist others would be fruitful. Laborers thank God for the gift of their able bodies and their skills as they plan, supervise, build, create, fix, and work as teams to accomplish the work of the day. Patients in facilities, the homebound, the elderly thank God for the life they have had, for the opportunity to practice virtue as they wait for whatever is to come that day. Students of all kinds turn to God for help with their studies and exams and thank him for the gift of learning. Depressed people find relief in offerings of prayer and thank God for a respite in their suffering.

    Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. By the grace of God, people everywhere see the beauty of creation, the wonder of the infinite complexity of life that surrounds us and thank God just for being God.

    Dawn. Nine a.m. Noon. Three p.m. Five p.m. By the grace of God, people turn their hearts to God in recognition of his greatness. People pray in union with Christians the world over for their own personal needs, the needs of their family, their communities, and the world. And God is there, God is with us in this rhythm of life!

    1. Bernadette, you posit daily rhythm as either a depressing rut or a continuous prayer.
      Jesus’s actions suggest neither of those. He did his not-at-all-depressing work in a nitty-gritty daily routine: a lunch one day, a chance conversation another day, hours spent solving problems like how to handle large crowds, how to deal with the people who hated and envied him.
      Thank God he understood all the interesting, painful, glorious, distressing, boring, enlightening minutiae of daily living that we know. We don’t have to pretend to him that we’re paragons of daily relIgious consciousness.
      Ann White

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