Every minute is precious. Christ knew his end was coming, but as for us: who knows how much of it God will give us?
Time is money, as they say. I’ll admit it, it’s like money. We can spend it, and we can waste it. The question is: do we know how to invest it? A famous billionaire was once asked if he goes to church on Sunday. He answered: “Time is precious. Forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning? What could be a bigger waste of my time?” He was half-right. Time is precious.
Some times are more precious than others. Holy Week is coming, for example, the most. What practical steps can we Catholics take so that our “Holy Week” is what it is supposed to be, the most important week of the year? Some people give up coffee, or the news, or music: all good practices. But another step is the one Jesus himself advices for Holy Week: “Watch and pray.” Prayer is rather obvious. But “watch?” What did Our Lord mean by “watch”?
Palm Sunday afternoon. The sun falls on Jerusalem, shadows lengthen, crowds walk home, quiet settles, and the Passion begins. Jesus and his donkey ride away from the cheering and the palm branches, and the Pharisees looking jealous. An endless stream of memories and a thousand concerns fills Christ. He has reached the prime of his life, and just like any man in his thirties, he does not want to die yet. Thirty years in Nazareth, three years of public life - so many still in need of him, so much still to teach his apostles - and not even Jesus himself could buy more time, could hold the sun back, could delay the will of the Father: three hours on the cross. “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death,” he kept saying, and “Watch and pray.” He put his whole heart into every minute. He had always done this, but during that week, like never before. That week, he is in prayer long after the disciples fall asleep, and if he sleeps at all he is up before sunrise. Peter and his companions did not know why, but for the first time ever, the Lord was not in control of a situation.
Every minute is precious. Christ knew his end was coming, but as for us: who knows how much of it God will give us? We spend time like money, but unlike money you cannot earn time. God puts maybe twenty, thirty-five, sixty, or eighty years into our personal expense account, and minute by minute, it gets withdrawn.
As we are always spending time, the good news is we can also invest time. This is the key to success. Everything from a coffee break to four years in college can be an investment because if we put a little time into things like this, we can get more out of life. A cup of coffee takes five minutes, but if keeps you from falling asleep in class, it might save you thirty. But how do we know what is good investment of time, and what is not?
At least one thing is always a sure investment: time given to God. Forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning is basic: if you do not give this to God, you will go spiritually bankrupt. But then every additional minute given to him is only going to pay you big dividends.
If time is money, the clock is like your stock broker. When the alarm rings in the morning, you have the choice to, for example, invest seven minutes of heart-to-heart conversation with Christ, or put seven into a little more snoozing. Snoozing feels better. But every minute of prayer pays off at least a hundred-to-one: you make better decisions, you get more done, and you become more the kind of person God made you to be. I would bet a businessman who prays could make more money.
Everyday we face hundreds, maybe thousands, of little choices about what to do with those twenty-four hours. Time is too precious for us. We should give it to God. He knows what to do with it. It is always smart to give God more of it, to put time into the bank of eternity.
Watch and pray. Maybe this is what Christ means by “watch.” Be vigilant. Keep busy. Take advantage of every minute. There is an old saying, “the devil will find work for idle hands to do.” Peter was “warming his hands” by the fire when he betrayed our Lord: he was not doing anything. He had too much time on his hands. He learned a lesson.
Holy Week 2006. It is time for us to invest in the bank of eternity. To do this, prayer is always a good place to start. Christ has plenty to say to us, and we have plenty to talk about. And when it comes time to “watching”, I want to suggest two things. Tip # 1:
Waste your time… on others. We can volunteer hours at our local parish school, or soup kitchen, or give blood, or help our pastor prepare the church for Easter. It might even be possible for us to make bigger commitments. For example, traditionally every Holy Week over sixty-thousand college and high-school students take part in “Youth for the Third Millenium Megamissions.” In villages and cities throughout Mexico and the United States, they evangelize door-to-door, help local pastors, organize fun and formative activities for children and the poor, and promote the sacraments. They say it is the best week of their life, the most enriching experience they have ever had. They bring Christ to others.Tip # 2:
if you cannot do missionary or volunteer work this Holy Week, another great way to invest (and not just spend) our Holy Week is by doing better the little things that make up everyday, and doing them for God. Getting out of bed quicker and studying math a little harder make God very happy, if we do these things for him. Plus there is an added benefit: he blesses every minute we offer him. It becomes time in the bank of eternity. Legionary Brother Timothy Lyons studies for the priesthood in Rome. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.