16 Aug 2015
“… making the most of the time …” (Eph. 5:16) In the name …
This afternoon I leave for our diocesan Youth Retreat. When I spend that much time with young people, I realize I’m not young anymore. Their energy level and mine are like we’re almost different species. I’m usually up at Retreat before 6AM and I don’t usually get back into my bunk until after midnight. That makes for a very, very long day. I’m dragging by the end of the day, but those kids don’t seem all that anxious to go to bed by the end of that same very, very long day. When I head out to the Retreats and those days seem to extend on and on like they’re 48 hours long, I have a better appreciation for how much can be accomplished because of really how much time there is in the day that we don’t always take advantage of. Or as we read in Ephesians this morning we are to be wise by “making the most of [our] time.”
There is a lot of time in the day, but just like at Retreat, to make use of all of it every day can be exhausting if using that time is only a chore. I saw a commercial the other night produced for a car company, but I can’t remember which one. It struck me as possibly signaling a change in the way we’re thinking in our society. In the commercial, a guy is at work in a high rise office building full of people busily performing their tasks. He walks past all of them, alone onto the elevator, and then out to the office garage. He gets in his car and drives away. As he drives down the deserted street all of the other employees watch with envy from the windows of their office where they’re still toiling away. The message of the car company’s commercial is that there is more to life than a job.
We have definitely been living through an employer’s economy. People are happy just to have a job so employers can add more and more tasks onto that job because they know this. And this means workers are staying longer, but not necessarily for more money. But the people producing commercials do their homework. They reflect what they see in society. They don’t want to upset potential customers by being too controversial. Maybe they’ve found indications that people have had enough of this “work and then work some more” attitude. Maybe people are ready to say “Enough already.” Because there’s more time available in any given day doesn’t mean that people can’t go home, relax and have dinner with their families as a better use of that time. I think this idea of time-enjoyment is also important when we think about what it means when the Bible says we should be “making the most of [our] time.”
But let’s not forget that it’s the Bible telling us to make the most of our time. I assume it’s safe to say that the author of Ephesians would include our relationship with God in the statement about the importance of time. I assume the Bible would consider our faith lives worth both the investment of our time and the way in which we enjoy our time. But do people of faith still buy into these two statements? Do we still buy into these two statements that spending time in a place like this is both worth sharing some of our time and as a way of enjoying that time? While we’re thinking about this, let me share with you a story Fr. Sen. Krusienski told me this past Friday as we traveled together while attending Emily Soltysiak’s funeral in Manchester, NH. Fr. Sen. Krusienski has a part-time job as a school bus driver. God bless him. I don’t know how he does it. He told me that he has about 20 minutes between routes in the afternoon and that he stops by this one spot and sits on a bench to pass the time. The bench happens to be by one of these fire and brimstone churches. The pastor, I guess as a habit, I guess as part of his ministry, preaches to anyone who sits on that bench by his church. He comes out to Fr. Sen. Krusienski, who is not in his clericals, and gives him the standard speech about Jesus dying for our sins and that if we don’t accept Him then we are going to be burning in eternal hell as a consequence.
If you don’t know Fr. Sen., I have to tell you, you can’t fluster the guy. After the pastor preached to him about going to hell, Fr. Sen. calmly said in reply, “Pastor, I don’t look like it now, but I’m a priest in the National Catholic Church, and we don’t believe in your eternal hell so you’re going to have to go try and scare someone else.” The hell fire and brimstone guy hasn’t bothered him since, and Fr. Sen. is still sitting on that same bench. The reason we don’t believe in eternal hell is because of this very sort of situation. Hell can be used to try and scare people into the arms of God. If you have to rely on fear tactics though, if the threat of hell is your opening argument to get people into your church, then I can’t help but think you don’t trust enough in the positive power of Christ’s example and teaching, that you don’t believe enough in the gospel message and the community of the church as worthwhile. The threat of hell is the saddest reason, the saddest excuse really, to believe in Jesus. And that’s why we don’t preach about eternal hell. We trust that Jesus has enough to offer that is beneficial and healing to bring people to God, and even to bring people to church because they want to be here, even because it’s a way to be “making the most of [our] time.”
Time is precious in our busy lives. If church is seen as nothing but a boring obligation that has to be endured to avoid hell, then it won’t have much of a chance to fit into the category of “making the most of [our] time.” Church isn’t an obligation; it’s refreshment. Church should lift our spirits and give us hope. Church should be a place of joy and peace not of fear and threat. That’s why Ephesians puts “making the most of [our] time” and God all in the same sentence. Let us pray this morning that we again see what the Bible sees, the goodness and value of being here, of sharing our time with God, that this hour can add something special and unique to all the rest of our time. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo