Before a football team signs a new player, it spends hours scouting his performance on the field. The scouts want to see not only if he can make plays, but whether he works hard at practice and how willing he is to listen to the coach. Not only are the player’s skills important but also his character. And so, not only do they monitor his performance on the field, but they investigate what he does with his free time. When he is not at practice or at the game, is he studying and spending time with his family? Or is he going to parties and getting himself into trouble? How a player spends his free time goes a long way in revealing what type of person he is.
The same is true for each of us as well. For most of us, the most precious commodity we have is time. With the increased pace of life in a digital age, we seem to have an overabundance of everything else. Because time is so precious to us, we are generally much more willing to give away money than volunteer our time. How we spend our free hours, then, reveals a great deal about what is important to us and what type of people we are.
Looking back on this past week, how have we spent our time? When we were not working or at school, what did we choose to do with any free moments we may have had? How much of it did we spend in front of the television or tapping away at our computers? How much of it did we spend with our families? How much of it did we spend with someone who needed our help or a friendly ear? And how much of it did we spend in prayer, whether alone with God or with others?
The good use of time is a theme that also runs through the Bible. The Scripture readings we have heard remind us that our time—which is a gift of God—is both valuable and short.
Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans urges us to recognize that the day of our salvation is on the horizon. It is closer now than it was yesterday. If we have been putting off the changes we need to make in our lives because we think we have plenty of time, then we are mistaken. Now is the time to take seriously the commitment we made at our baptism to reject sin and to walk with Jesus. We cannot afford to put it off any longer. Saint Paul tells us that the alarm clock is ringing. It is time to wake up to the fullness of life that Jesus is offering us.
What needs to change in our lives? What have we been putting off doing because we think we have plenty of time? Who in our lives do we need to ask forgiveness of and be reconciled with? Who have we been planning to call or visit but just have not made the time for? What are we waiting for? There is no better day than today to begin reaching out to those who need our love.
If there is one spiritual practice that you and I put off doing perhaps more than any other it is probably going to the sacrament of reconciliation. We have plenty of excuses for waiting another week or two before going. However, the only result of our procrastination is that we are depriving ourselves of all the rich graces that come when we accept God’s pardon and mercy. We are keeping ourselves from experiencing the healing that comes from celebrating his unconditional love for us. In these weeks of preparation for the birth of Jesus, let that be our first step toward making the changes that need to be made in our lives. We will never regret making the time to let Jesus free our hearts from the burden of shame and sin we carry.
Another important question to ask ourselves is how much time do we spend dwelling on past regrets or worrying about what the future holds? The past is gone. We can never get it back. And the future is out of our hands. While we have to plan for it, so much can change between now and tomorrow. We really only have today. It is right now that Jesus meets us with the offer of a new and fuller life. He is offering to provide us with the bread we need this day. While we need to be thankful for all the blessings we have received in the past, we must also reach our hands out to the blessings that are being offered to us today. We must forgive ourselves for the foolish choices we made yesterday and trust that God will give us the wisdom to make better choices today.
Of all God’s blessings, time is among the most precious. We cannot know how much time we have left, but each of us has today and each of us has now. We are especially blessed here and now to be gathered together with other believers to hear God’s word and receive the supreme gift of love, the body and blood of Jesus. May our sinfulness be a thing of the past and our present be an encounter with the life-changing love of God. Let us use the time we have left in prayer and in good works so that, when Christ does come to meet us, he may find us ready to welcome him with expectant faith.
Douglas Sousa, STL
Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
—From the Blessing of an Advent Wreath, Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers.