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  • Writer's pictureFr. Mastroeni

Time, Trid. 20th after Pentecost 2017

Updated: Oct 10, 2018

I should like to focus our reflection this morning on the first scripture reading from Eph. 5:16: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, redeeming the time [making the most of the time] because the days are evil…”

Notice how we are all constantly surprised and even saddened by time. We say with regret, “Oh, how fast the time flies…Just look how you’ve grown.” “Where has the time gone?”

Birthdays, especially when you get older are a bittersweet experience. Birthdays are fine when you are young, but as the years melt by, there are more and more candles on the cake until it resembles a “bonfire of the vanities.” Celebrating the birthdays of the elderly have a tinge of sadness about them.[1]

Every year marks a closer milestone in our lives when time will be no more; when we step out of time into eternity. Death itself is seen as “Fr.Time”, often pictured as a grim reaper about to cut down the sheaves of our lives at an unknown moment when the harvest is ripe.

However, you find that in those countries where the Faith has been the strongest, even if now on the wane, there is still the residue sense of eternity which is stronger than the passage of time. Clocks there are, but no one gets bent out of shape for being respectably late. A long and leisurely afternoon pranzo followed by a siesta is like shrugging your shoulders at time. It is much different across the Alps in countries affected by the Reformation where the loss of Catholicism has given rise long ago to a virulent secularization which is obsessed with time. After all, “Time means money”.

Outside of time

Our happiest moments were when we were not conscious of time at all. At school you were constantly spying the clock till it hit 2:30 PM. When you were out having fun, time passed ever so quickly without notice. The less conscious we are about the passing of time the more we enjoy ourselves.

Our most creative moments come when eternity almost seems to get inside of the soul. All great inspirations seem to be out of time. Mozart was asked when he got his inspirations. He said it came all at once. There was a great light, warmth, heat, then the notes. It was a moment when eternity seemed to touch time. Michelangelo–the end result is seen all at once at the beginning. Great moments of creative genius are usually experienced without consideration to time. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.”

Heaven is outside of time. All of its joys are experienced in one full, continuous and eternal moment. The psalmist is referring to heaven when he prays: “A thousand years in your sight, O Lord, are but as yesterday now that it is past, or as a watch in the night.” [Ps.90:4] St. Peter in his that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” [2 Peter 3:8]

But sadly with the rise of secularization, the decline of faith and belief in immortality, not surprising time has become one of the major causes of stress, anxiety and panic attack. If there is no other life than this, if the daily burden of life leads to nothing more than the grave, if existence has no meaning, then time is the root of many an anxiety or obsessive compulsion to beat the clock, to control the uncontrollable. It is in the light of this unbelief that Paul tells the Ephesians, “the days are evil” and for this reason we should “redeem the time.” We should snatch time, whenever we can from the jaws of hell.

So what does Paul mean exactly when he bids to do this?

We can begin by acknowledging that time is a gift from God.[2] Time is a creature of God. It is a means to an end, never an end in itself.

God used the “fullness of time” as a means for sending forth his Eternal Son. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law”. [Gal. 4:4]

Bernard tells what it is for. “Time is for loving and loving is for God.”

Because time is a creature, a means, it has its limitations—God does not always need its passage to accomplish his designs. St. Terese of Lisieux says with regard to single soul: “the good God does not need years to accomplish his work of love in a soul; one ray from his heart can, in an instant, make his flower bloom for eternity.”

When a person’s life is coherent or consistent with his faith, one of the results is that it leads him to “make most of the time”, which means more than just “keeping busy” or “making up for lost time”. St. Terese of Lisieux took a vow never to waste a moment of time. This is what Paul means in today’s reading when he challenges us to “redeem the time”. St. Augustine puts it beautifully when he says: “redeeming the time means sacrificing, when the need arises, present interests in favor of eternal ones, thereby purchasing eternity with the coin of time.” –That is, we literally buy eternity with the coinage of ordinary time.

[Practice of the Presence of God]

One simple way to do this, which comes from the Church’s centuries-old tradition is to punctuate the passage of time with the “practice of the presence of God”. This could take but a moment: walking or waiting for the bus or train, driving in the car, waiting on line to check out, a leisurely moment after lunch, observing the beauty of the sky, the fierceness of a story, the smile of a child or an elderly person. In such moments remind yourself that you are surrounded by the presence of God, for God does exist as an effect in everything he has caused into existence, but also that he continues to keep it or preserve it in existence. “In Him we move and have our being.”

But even more wondrously, God exists, indwells in every soul that is alive supernaturally with Grace, in every soul that is in the State of Sanctifying Grace. There God dwells, the entire Trinity. “For, if any man love me and is true to my word, my Father will love him and we will make our dwelling place within him.”

“Redeeming the time…for the days are evil” also means crowding out evil. And we crowd out evil not simply by attacking it head on, which may be required at times, but also by doing good, as much as we can, leaving little space for evil to make its destructive entrance. Jose Maria Escriva reminds us: “Time is a treasure that melts away. It escapes from us, slipping through our fingers like water through the mountain rocks. Tomorrow will soon be another yesterday. Our lives are so very short. Yesterday has gone and today is passing by. But what a great deal can be done for the love of God in this short space of time!” [Friends of God, 52]

Redeeming the time means doing as much good as we can in the time God has given me. Examining our consciences at night we should ask ourselves not only how we sinned during the day, but also what good did I do, what good did time offer me and I left it undone? Our Lord tells us, “We must do the works of him who sent us while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” [Jn.9:4]

The words of Paul are challenging and reassuring: “For He [God] says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.’” [2 Cor.6:2]

Be resolved never to leave for tomorrow the real good you can do today.

[1] I can still remember the entire family celebrating my Mother’s 90th birthday. Hidden beneath all the joyful exuberance at her reaching such a milestone, we all were saddened to know that this may very well be her last birthday celebration. And it was.

[2] Time begins with the creation of the material universe, and Genesis reminds us that God created the light separating it from the darkness, and saw that it was good. This separation implies the beginning of time’s reckoning—the passage from darkness to light.

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