Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Proper Use of Time: The Way to Prepare for Eternity

(First Sunday of Advent (A): This homily was given on November 28, 2010 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: First Sunday of Advent 2010]

What is “it”?

See if you can figure out what “it” is. (It really shouldn’t be too difficult.)

We all have it.

We all live in it.

We all use it—but we also misuse it.

We sometimes take it for granted.

We work in it.

We play in it.

We never seem to have enough of it.

We can’t stop it or move it along more quickly, even if we’d like to.

We all waste at least some of it.

And at the end of our lives, we will have unequal amounts of it. You may end up with more of it than I end up with; I may end up with more of it than you end up with (there’s no guarantee one way or the other).

So—what is “it”?

It, of course, is “time”.

On that note, the message of today’s second reading and gospel can be summed up in this one line: When our lives on this earth are finished and we enter eternity, all that will matter is what we have done—or not done—with our time.

Jesus, in this gospel, talks about the end of time—the end of the physical world as we know it. (And incidentally, what he says here about the end of the world also applies to the moment of our physical death, if we don’t happen to survive until the Lord’s second coming).

Now what Jesus indicates here, sad to say, is that many people will not be ready for the end when it finally does occur. And notice what he says about the men and women who are not prepared. He compares them to the people of Noah’s time who were not prepared for the Great Flood. He says, “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” Notice that Jesus does NOT say, “They were fornicating and committing adultery and murdering their brothers and sisters—and doing other incredibly horrible, evil things.”

All he says is that they were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage—none of which is an intrinsically evil activity!

So what was Jesus’ point?

His point was that they were going about their ordinary daily business with little or no regard for the condition of their immortal souls! In other words, they were misusing the time that God had given them on this earth; they were wasting their precious gift of time by not working on their relationship with God. Oh sure, they were doing some very important and necessary things, but they were also ignoring what was most important in life—consequently they were not ready for the flood when it arrived.

Had they spent some of their time repenting and helping Noah to build the ark, and had they been on it with Noah and his family when the rain began, their personal stories would have ended a lot differently.

They would have been prepared.

This first Sunday of the season of Advent is a day for us to reflect in a serious way on our use of time. St. Paul tells us in First Thessalonians that we are tri-dimensional as human beings: we are body, soul and spirit. That means—in addition to helping others and fulfilling our daily duties—we should be using our time to care for each of those dimensions of our human personhood: our bodies, our souls (which here can signify our intellectual and emotional life), and our spirits.

So here are a few questions to reflect on during the upcoming week:

What am I doing (or not doing) to maintain good physical health? What am I doing (or not doing) to maintain good emotional and intellectual health—especially as that relates to my Catholic faith? For example, when was the last time I read a book or an article—or watched a television program on EWTN—that helped me to learn more about my Catholic religion? As Catholics, we should be using some of our time every week to learn more about our faith—so that we can live it AND so that we can properly defend it.

One of the reasons, of course, why we need to defend it is because there are so many lies out there in the world about the Church and her teaching. Did you hear the one about Pope Benedict last week? Many reporters in the secular media were telling their audiences that the Holy Father had, in effect, changed the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the use of condoms.

But the Holy Father did no such thing. It was a lie!

Do you see how important it is that we know our faith? We have to know what the Church REALLY teaches on these matters, so that we can respectfully correct those who have believed the lies.

And what am I doing to stay in good spiritual health—besides going to Mass once a week? Am I giving at least as much time to God in prayer each day as I give to text messaging my friends? (A very good question for our teenagers, especially—though not exclusively!) Am I giving at least as much time to God each day in prayer and Scripture reading as I give to surfing the internet, or playing video games, or doing my other acts of recreation?

And what am I going to do with my time this Advent? Is this season only going to be about shopping and wrapping gifts and getting together with friends, or am I also going to take some concrete steps during these next 4 weeks to grow closer to God—the God who sent his Son into this world on Christmas Day to save me from my sins?

(On that note, we have a great Advent opportunity for growth coming up in two weeks. We’re having a day of recollection with Marty Rotella from 8-3 on Saturday, December 11. Marty’s an awesome Catholic musician with some great things to say. So if you want to hear some good music and be built up in spirit to prepare for Christmas, make plans to be here. Make some time. There’s more information on that event in today’s bulletin.)

And what about the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Will I take some serious time during the next few weeks to examine my conscience thoroughly, and then will I make the time to get to Confession? Hear again the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading:

“Brothers and sisters: you know the time [notice the reference to “time”]; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”

I am sure that Jesus Christ is speaking directly to some people in this church right now through the words of that text—especially those among us who have been away from the sacrament of Reconciliation for many years.

Back in the 4th century, a man named Augustine read those words I just shared with you and they literally changed his life. After living a lifestyle for many years that Hugh Hefner would definitely have approved of, Augustine made the most important decision he would ever make: the decision to take the time to repent of his sins and make room in his heart for God.

And so today we call him Saint Augustine, Doctor of the Church.

Finally he put his time to good use.

May we all learn to do the same thing—not only during this season of Advent, but every day of the year.

Dear Lord, give us the grace that we need each day to use our time well, to use our time wisely, so that whenever the end comes for us, we will be ready—ready for a life with you, not in time, but in eternity. Amen.