3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: His Time, His Story
Today’s reading point us to consider God’s call and the exigency, the necessary immediacy of our response. They begin with the journey of Jonah through Nineveh. According to the reading, Nineveh was a very large city. It would take three days to walk from one end to the other. But the Ninevites didn’t need to hear Jonah’s prophecy for three days. After a single-days walk, or as soon as they heard it, they repented. In the Gospel, Jesus call Simon and Andrew, and then James and John, and they leave their boats and follow him immediately. The strongest message of demanding an immediate response, though, flows from the second reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.
It is very clear that we must make the best use of the time that the Lord gives us. This is a stunning contrast to the attitude of so many who set aside an hour a week for the Lord feeling that somehow or other they have kept God happy in a mere 60 minutes. God does not need our prayers for an hour a week. We do not pray to keep God happy. We pray to keep ourselves happy, and we pray for others to be happy. We need to pray, and we need to pray continually.
We have to make the best use of our time. Our time is not our own. It belongs to God. At the beginning of the Book of Genesis, we hear that all creation was entrusted to mankind. When we think of creation, we focus on the concrete aspects of creation, those things which we can see such as the lakes and oceans, the mountains and hills, and we focus on the plants and animals God has given us to care for,, and we focus on human beings and how we can care for others through the proper use of God’s gifts of creation. There is another aspect of creation we often miss. That is time. Time is also part of creation. Time only exists in the physical world. It is entrusted to us to be used wisely.
We have to set aside time for many different activities--for sleeping, for working, for exercising and, especially, for praying. In fact, we should all have a schedule for prayer in our daily lives, a schedule that we keep. It is important also that we set aside time for relaxing. Some of us live in a state of continual stress. We need to fight off stress usually through physical activity. Either we take care of stress or stress takes care of us--and everyone around us. We have to set aside time for others, sometimes that means caring for others, but usually we simply need to be with others.
Sadly, we often waste time. We get tied up in going from one You-Tube video to another, or from one TV program to another. After a while, we look at our watches and ask, “Where did the time go?” My great fear is that God looks at me and says, “Is that the best you can do with your day?” We have a responsibility to use whatever time we have left well.
Many older people often ask, “Why am I still here?” The answer is that God has more work for us to do, more ways to use the time he gave us. The last week of August, 1988, I came to St. Ignatius to say goodbye to my mentor, Fr. John LaTondress. He was dying of cancer. He said to me, “This is not fun, you know.” He wanted it to end, but he knew that God still had a bit more work for him to do here on earth, even if that work was simply to offer up his suffering for another week or so.
Fr. John received the blessing of knowing that his time on earth was coming to a rapid conclusion. We do not all have that blessing. Most of us do not know when our days on earth are coming to an end. We can live another 50 years, or just another 50 days. That is why we have to live our lives in a way that we are always ready to give an account for how well we use the time the Lord has given us.
To all this we have to add that when the Lord gives us a particular call, a particular mission, He calls us to address this Grace immediately. There is an exigency to His call. When we put off responding to this grace, then the unheeded call can very well dissipate and an opportunity to further the Kingdom of God will be lost. How often have others asked us a serious question at and inconvenient time. Children and Teens seem to be excellent at finding the worst times to ask a question or make a statement that needs an immediate response. Just as Mom is parking at the supermarket, her 9 year old says, “Billy’s parents are separating. Are you and Dad going to do that too?” Mom might want to put off the answer and the discussion but then the right time to respond never comes. How often I have said, “ This person is seriously ill. I must see him; I must see her,” but then I put my visit off only to learn that it is no longer possible for me to visit.
The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness thereof, we pray in Psalm 24. This world belongs to God. He has set us in this world to do his work, but He only gives us a brief time to accomplish His tasks. We pray today that we make the best use of the time He gives us.