What a strange thing “time” is. I’m not talking about the spice that you put on your pasta but rather the thing which we measure using a clock. Man in time is like a fish in water. Time is so fundamental to our very existence and experience that we hardly notice it except in moments of great change. Yet now, as a graduating senior, great change is soon coming to my life. At this moment, I cannot but step back and reflect on time and its passing. What exactly is time? What measures its passing? Where did my four years of college go?
Time is one of those significant things we often forget about. Yet time is like the air we breathe. It is essential. Augustine himself provides the remarkable insight that time is part of creation. Insofar as creation is made for man, so too, time is made for man. It is a gift. Yet do we think of it as such?
In the Parable of the Talents, Christ teaches us the importance of using the gifts that we have been given. Often, we think of these gifts in terms of the aptitudes and abilities God has given us, whether it be a gift for communicating, playing sports, intellectual or academic work, etc. Yet there is one gift in particular that we often forget about. It is a gift that each and every one of us possesses. This gift is that of time and the present moment that it constantly affords us.
Undoubtedly, it is quite an easy thing to fill up a schedule. There is always one more thing with which you can fill your time. One can always spend more time perfecting a project or practicing for a sport. But the question is this: “Am I using my time well? Or am I burying this talent, this gift of time, in the ground as did the lazy servant in the parable?”
In order to answer this question, we must inquire what constitutes a good use of time. In turn, the answer to this inquiry depends upon the goals or ends which we are trying to achieve and the relative importance of these ends to one another. One of the things I have realized is that, as a Catholic, I often fail to order my time toward the right things in the right order. For example, I often find that I allow those things which appear to be urgent to consume my time such that I neglect things that are actually more important in the long run.
To give an example that I think we can all relate to (to greater and lesser degrees of course), let us consider the case of prayer. Personally, I often neglect giving sufficient time to prayer each day because I find that my essay could use a little bit more editing or my presentation could use a bit more preparation. I have the mentality that once I’m finished with my urgent “to do” list, then I can finally give my time to prayer. But the problem is that there is always going to be a “to do” list, both during my time in college as well as during my adult life. The list will never be finished. If I waited until the list was complete to pray, I would never pray. This reveals a mixup of priorities. Communion with God is the most important of priorities because it is my ultimate end. Heaven is that for which we are made. Therefore, prayer in fact should be the cornerstone of my use of time because it unites me to God and draws me toward the end which is heaven. Every other use of time should be subordinate to prayer. While as college students it is easy to think, “I am young and there is always tomorrow,” we must rather approach our use of time each day as if today was going to be our last. If today was my final day on this earth, what would I do? How would I use my time? The answer given to that question will reveal the true order of one’s priorities in life. Only by answering such a question will the “important” things also assume the status of “urgent” and ascend to the top of the list of priorities. Only then will we see what constitutes a good use of the time that has been given to us by God.
As your fellow Catholic, I exhort us all, therefore, to use our time today as if today was to be our last day in this life. May we use the gift of time as God would have it. May we worship God first, love our neighbor second, and then attend to the duties and responsibilities which demand our time in a tertiary manner. I mean, who doesn’t have time for that?