Summer is a good time to think about time. Some summer days, time seems to fly by and before we know it, the day is done. On others, time seems to crawl as we struggle to finish a project, or wait for the fun to start, or watch for someone’s arrival.
God is the creator of time. He gives that creation to us, along with the rest. Time is a gift of God. How does He want us using that gift? There seem to be two extremes — two equally dangerous extremes that prevent us from enjoying this great grace of time.
To one extreme, we see time as an endless commodity. Like children playing in the water when they should be washing their hands, we don’t realize that what’s passing through our fingers comes at a cost. That water comes from somewhere and it goes somewhere – and Mom and Dad have to pay for it. Time, too, flows past. It comes from somewhere, from God; and it goes somewhere out of our reach. It is not an endless resource.
Indeed, Scripture warns us that time is all too short. “(T)he day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” St. Paul warns. (1 Th 5:2) Jesus teaches us that no one knows how much time is left. (cf Mt 24:36-44, John 9:4)
To the other extreme, we see time as a master to obey. “Get off your duff and do something!” we shout — at children, at spouses, at ourselves. We serve time and try to fill it with action, with more hours at work, with more activities that makes us feel like we’re doing something. Rest is for the lazy.
Yet Jesus tells us that he comes to give us rest. (Mt 11:28) Is Jesus leading us to sin? Of course not! Rest is a part of God’s plan. Rest is somethings Jesus wants for us.
How do we combine these two ideas? How do we avoid the extremes? Mistakes with time are so easy to make. (I find myself going from one extreme to the other, back and forth. Perhaps you suffer only one or the other.) Thank God that we have a plan, and we’ve had one literally from the beginning. God established a pattern of work and rest, modelling it for us in His creation of everything. He shows us through His own divine actions that time exists both for work and for rest.
What is work? It is the work that God has put before us – our vocation – and all the little daily things we can offer to him. If our work takes us away from our vocation, away from Godly things, then perhaps we’re doing the wrong work. If it feels like an unbearable burden, perhaps we’re burdening ourselves with things Christ doesn’t ask us to take up – a thousand things that feel “busy” but don’t accomplish the real tasks God’s put before us.
What is rest? It isn’t frittering away time thoughtlessly but an intentional leisure. It is joyful, never sinful and never wasteful. It refreshes us for the return to our work. It uses time for leisure, rather than pass time or waste it. If our leisure isn’t doing that, then there’s something wrong.
We are meant to work — not at everything, but at our vocation and in service to God and others. We are meant to have leisure — not wasting time, but using it to enjoy the gift of life and to recharge. God gives us the ultimate solution (and example) in the Mass. The Mass is our most important work. The word “liturgy”, in fact, comes from the Greek for “public service” or “public work”. It is also a source of joy and rest. The YOUCat puts this very well. In question 183, it tells us: “In the liturgy, time becomes quite dense, because every second is filled with meaning.” Later, in question 185, it warns that “We must learn on earth how to celebrate properly, or else we will not know what to do in heaven. Heaven is an endless Sunday.”
We must do our proper work, and we must learn to celebrate properly. Work and rest, just as God does. We are made in His image, after all, and that is His will for us.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’ — you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.'” (Jas 4:13-15)
Copyright 2014, Joe Wetterling