I was driving on the day after Halloween (All Saints Day) this year, and as I scanned through my channels I came to the 1940s channel that I like to listen to from time to time. However, that day, there was no “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B” or “Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet.” Instead, the 40s channel had been transformed into the Holiday Channel, and Wham!’s “Last Christmas” filled my car.
The rush for the holidays has begun, friends! And these days are just going to get more and more hectic. You may already be feeling the crunch, and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet. The modern life is one that is often characterized by “busy-ness” – in fact, we might not even feel like we’re contributing if we are not saying that we are busy. The last weeks of the year tend to amplify that. Even the Gospel and First Reading speak of time running out. And with that busy-ness comes a lot of stress.
How do we respond to that stress? Do we simply strive to survive this time? Are we merely trying to plow through the work we have or the holidays, and are glad when it is over? Is that the kind of life we want - going from one survival situation to another?
If you’re like me, then no, it isn’t. We want to be energized by what we do; we want to make a positive difference in our world. However, many times we can feel like we are treading water or spinning our wheels. This is what St. Paul is talking to us about in the Second Reading today. He is talking to people who seem “busy” – people who have a lot to do. However, he also knows that they, too, can feel stressed out or overburdened. In fact, he sees this a flaw in the community; because this busyness is not producing anything – except tired and spiritually exhausted people. Listen to what he says: “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.” Another translation renders this as “not keeping busy but acting like busy-bodies.” (And Paul didn’t even know what Facebook was!)
Does that hit close to home? I know it does for me. In a world with Facebook, Twitter, instantaneous texting, 24-hour news, and binge watching, we have plenty to keep us “busy,” and plenty to keep us from being productive. I am embarrassed to admit that I have wasted valuable prayer time in mornings because I just “had to check Facebook.” An hour later, God has been ignored. Not keeping busy but minding the business of others.”
We all have our diversions – we all have distractions. Many of these are innocent or harmless in and of themselves. However, when we give them the attention that should be given to something more important or essential, we allow ourselves to fall into the trap against which Paul is warning us. How can we order our time so that we can act in a more spiritually and humanly productive way? Are there any time management tips for us that God can provide?
When I was in seminary, our rector, who was in charge of us seminarians, told us to consider making a holy hour a regular part of our day. “Gentlemen,” he said, “if you give God one hour a day you will have time for everything else.”
I thought he was crazy (he is now Cardinal Dolan of New York, by the way!). However, I decided to try it. In addition to my 3 hours of Latin homework, 22 hours of credits, my house job as sacristan, walking to and from school, my apostolate of leading tours, my role as head of Student Activities Council, and being in the annual Spring musical, I made a holy hour daily from 5:30 to 6:30pm each day. Not only did I have time for everything else, I actually found more time!
You see, when you budget time, effort or money, you must necessary consider how all of it is spent – not just this and that, here and there. When we give God a gift from the top of our blessings – a gift of substance, of time, of attention – we are even more attentive to how we spend the rest (or we should be).
Jesus has given us the best of Who He is – He gives us Himself in the Eucharist, and He empowers us to accomplish fantastic things through His grace at work in us. If we want to see that grace fully alive in our lives, then we need to consider surrendering the best of who we are to Him.
These days to come will surely be hectic, and much will be asked of us. We will certainly feel the pinch and be sick and tired of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”; but if we start with God – and if our first attention, effort, and time are given to him – we will find that we will have the time, effort, and attention for everything else. Jesus promises that by your perseverance you will secure your lives, and this begins with our real commitment to Him.
Work is hard; the holidays are hectic; but refocusing on God is the best stress relief.