"Walk with care ... making the most of your time, because the days are evil."
Souls Day Prayer Leaflets
St. Paul today tells us that we need to be prudent in the way we budget our time. Time is what modern people might call a "non-renewable resource." We are allotted just so much of it, and when our time is up we are gone. "Seventy is the sum of our years or eighty if we are strong," as the Psalmist tells us, or maybe even ninety or a hundred; but nobody lives forever.
Paul is trying to make us conscious of the terrible consequences of having lived a life filled mostly with frivolous pursuits. Not only must we avoid doing what is evil-when we appear before St. Peter at the gate of heaven, we want to be in a position to tell him that we have spent most (if not all!) of our time pursuing the will of God. For example, he speaks of prayer; of spending your time with the Holy Ghost, immersed in Psalms and spiritual canticles. Certainly, he would approve other similar exercises, like attending Mass, or making visits to the Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, or praying the Rosary or the Divine Office.
We know too that St. Paul would commend the prudent use of our time in more material pursuits; making a decent living to provide for ourselves, our families, and for charitable work. At least twice in his epistles, he speaks of working with his own hands to support himself and his ministry. Likewise he spoke favorably of the ladies who accompanied some of the Apostles, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and doing the other tasks necessary in an orderly household. Certainly, he would approve of those who go out and perform the works of mercy; feeding the poor, clothing the naked, healing the sick, counseling the doubtful, and so on-whether they are able to do it in pure charity, or as a means to earn their livelihood.
In fact, it is hard even to think of Paul condemning a little necessary recreation now and then. In order to maintain a balanced perspective on life, people need to laugh a little, to exercise a little, to rest a little. In another epistle, he urges Timothy to drink a little wine-it will be “good for his stomach.”
What St. Paul is getting at here is for us to develop a concern for the overall way we spend our time: To have a glass or two, but not to fall asleep for the afternoon. To get adequate rest, but not to lie in bed until we are too sore to sleep any more. To get reasonable recreation, but not to leave the grass uncut during football season. To look after the material needs of ourselves and our neighbors, but not to become obsessed with piling up material goods either. And ultimately, he is urging us to understand that all of these activities, no matter how necessary or pleasurable we may perceive them to be, must give way to our obligations toward God.
We are, he says, to "give thanks always for all things in the name of Jesus Christ, to God the Father." We must perceive this as our primary duty, making sure that we budget some time in every part of the day for prayer. A few minutes each morning and evening are an absolute minimum. Some years ago I knew a lady who was devoted to saying the Angelus at the appropriate times of each day; 6 AM, Noon, and 6 PM. This is a marvelous habit. It takes perhaps two or three minutes at each time of the day, but it develops the habit of consecrating every part of our day to God through prayer.
The Psalms (Ps. 118: 164) speak of praying "seven times a day." The Divine Office adds a night time hour to make that eight. That may be a bit much for busy people, but two or three times a day is certainly not unreasonable. A few Our Fathers and Hail Marys; a decade or two of the Rosary; or maybe just a few minutes of private meditation, considering the lives of Jesus and Mary, or telling God our troubles, or just being quiet enough to see if He has something to tell us.
As Paul tells us, "the days are evil"; we are surrounded by all sorts of temptations-temptations which may become overwhelming if we spend our time in idleness. We must "see to it that we walk with care, making the most of our time. Some of that time may be spent in useful recreation, some of it in the practical necessities of life.
But never may we forget to pray-"always and for all things in the name of Jesus Christ, to God the Father."