The Bureau of Labor came out with some statistics on how we spend our time. It breaks down like this:
Working and related activities: 8.7 hours
Sleep: 7.7 hours
Leisure and sports: 2.6 hours
Household activities: 1.1 hours
Eating and drinking: 1.1 hours
Caring for Others: 1.3 hours
Other: 1.5 hours
This means that over half the day is gone, with over 12 hours a day devoted to working, eating, household and caring activities. Then there is the time for sleeping, 7.7 hours, which leaves only a few hours remaining for anything else. The majority of that extra time would seem to be assigned to the La-z-boy and the TV. However, of that “other” category, 16 minutes are given to “organizational, civic, and religious” activities. If we were being generous with the religious aspect and gave it 50% of that time, we would have 8 minutes per day or 56 minutes per week that we give to God.
Now, the unaware and self-righteous side of me would like to rail against those statistics, start telling folks that they need to get their priorities straight and all that. Truth is, if I weren’t a priest – receiving a stipend so that I could spend time with God on behalf of the people – if I had a job in the secular world, children to care for, school and family functions, if I had all these things and more, then I’m fairly certain that my minutes per day that I spend with God would be less than eight. Heck, even as a priest there are days when 8 minutes with God seems like a lot! But that doesn’t make it right.
Much of our life with Christ is about sacrifice, the giving up of who we are and replacing it with who God is. It is about a relationship and with any relationship it requires time, nurturing, giving, and sacrifice.
In the time leading up to Lent there are always discussion about what we will be “giving up,” that which we abstain from. However, this giving up is not about an act of will power: “I’m giving up coffee for Lent or smoking or whatever.” Heck, I gave up beer one Lent and really learned to enjoy red wine. The point of abstaining from something is so that you will be able to give that time, those resources, etc. to God. I’ll give up half an hour of TV a day so that I can spend that time with God. See how it works?
I read our Gospel today and it speaks of doing certain things for God: giving alms, serving Him, praying, and fasting. It talks about how we rightly do these things, not in public and not for show, but with a world that is constantly demanding more and more of our time, before we can do these things properly we must first learn to simply DO them. We discover how to give God more than 8 minutes per day, to sacrifice something of ourselves so that we can enter more deeply into that relationship with Him. This time with God is not just one more thing that we have to accomplish, as a Christian people, time with God, serving Him is our joy! Thomas a Kempis understood these things. In his Imitation of Christ, he writes, “I WILL hear what the Lord God will speak in me… Blessed is the soul who hears the Lord speaking within her, who receives the word of consolation from His lips. Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of divine whispering, and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world. Blessed indeed are the ears that listen, not to the voice which sounds without, but to the truth which teaches within. Blessed are the eyes which are closed to exterior things and are fixed upon those which are interior. Blessed are they who penetrate inwardly, who try daily to prepare themselves more and more to understand mysteries. Blessed are they who long to give their time to God, and who cut themselves off from the hindrances of the world…. Consider these things, my soul, and close the door of your senses, so that you can hear what the Lord your God speaks within you, ‘I am your salvation,’ says your Beloved. ‘I am your peace and your life.’”
The Lord is your joy. Your salvation. Your peace. Your life. During this Holy Lent make the sacrifice, take the time, and hear what the Lord your God will speak in you.