It is the end of the semester. As a teacher, I am always mindful of the realities that my students face this time each semester. Invariably, students will start to get that panicked look in their eyes. It is the end, no more second chances, no more opportunities for rewrites and no more time. They all start classes at determined to meet deadlines, come to class and always, always dedicated to doing their best. However, as the days roll on, they start to lose their enthusiasm and inevitably, they lose their commitment to do their best work. So, at the end of the semester, my email box is flooded with last minute requests and office visits of teary eyed students asking what they can do to bring up their grade- last minute extra credit? another rewrite on a paper? and promises to do any and all extra work (mow my lawn?) for just a few more points to pass the class. Each of them express their regret that somewhere along the way, they didn’t realize the semester would end so fast, they explain that it wasn’t their fault. Sometimes they say the work was too hard, the grading too strict and if they had just known they would have worked harder. But, the inevitable is facing them. The semester is over, the grade will be calculated. For some a failing grade will mean their academic career is over, and their dream of becoming a doctor, lawyer or whatever will fade. I really hate this time of year because I don’t want to record a failing grade they earned. I want them to do well. But, for many they don’t realize THEY were in control of this destiny. They CHOSE to not complete the work, not come to class and hear the explanation, they CHOSE to not study enough for the exam. They thought there was more time and opportunity.
Well, you probably know where I am going with this. As all situations in life, the spiritual can be applied. I am reminded this time of year of Matthew 7:21 and why it is so critical to remember that when our time here is over, the judgment awaits us. There will be those that will ask for more time, ask for “extra credit” and insist that if they had realized what it all meant, they would have worked harder. Our Lord used a different analogy. He used the parable of the ten virgins, the talents and the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25). We’ve all been in this kind situation before whether it was in school, or even with a simple utility bill. The deadline is a deadline. The final is the final. So, I will finish today and tomorrow entering the grades for the students and they will deal with the consequences, but they will readjust, maybe retake the course, or realize college is not for them. However, the larger and more important lesson awaits them because each and every day is a final and may be the “end of the semester.”