Time is a Treasure | A Homily by St. Josemaria Escriva
As I talk to you, and we make conversation together with God, Our Lord, I am simply voicing aloud my personal prayer. I like to remind myself of this very often. You for your part must also make an effort to nourish your own prayer within your souls, even in situations, such as the one we are in today, when we find ourselves having to deal with a topic which, at first sight, does not seem very conducive to a loving dialogue, which is what our conversation with God should aim to be. I say ‘at first sight’, because, of course, everything that happens to us, everything that goes on around us, can and indeed should form a theme for our meditation.
I want to talk to you about time, that passes so swiftly. I am not going to repeat to you the well-known phrase about one year more being one year less… Nor am I going to suggest that you ask around what others think of the passage of time. If you were to do so, you would probably hear something like, ‘Oh divine treasure of youth that slips away, never more to return…’, though I admit you may come across other views with a deeper and more supernatural content.
Nor is it my purpose to dwell nostalgically on the brevity of human life. For us Christians the fleetingness of our journey through life should instead be a spur to help us make better use of our time. It should never be a motive for fearing Our Lord, and much less for looking upon death as a disastrous and final end. It has been said in countless ways, some more poetical than others that, by the grace and mercy of God, each year that ends is a step that takes us nearer to Heaven, our final home.
When I reflect on this, how well I understand St. Paul’s exclamation when he writes to the Corinthians, tempus breve est. How short indeed is the time of our passing through this world! For the true Christian these words ring deep down in his heart as a reproach to his lack of generosity, and as a constant invitation to be loyal. Brief indeed is our time for loving, for giving, for making atonement. It would be very wrong, therefore, for us to waste it, or to cast this treasure irresponsibly overboard. We mustn’t squander this period of the world’s history which God has entrusted to each one of us.
Let us open the gospel of St. Matthew at chapter twenty-five. We read, ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who went to bring the bridegroom and his bride home, taking their lamps with them. Five of these were foolish, and five were wise.’ The evangelist tells us that the wise virgins had made good use of their time. They had prudently gone and provided themselves with the necessary amount of oil, and were ready when they were told: ‘See, it’s time. Behold, the bridegroom is on his way; go out to meet him!’ They turned up their lamps and went out joyfully to welcome him.
That day will come for us. It will be our last day, but we’re not afraid of it. Trusting firmly in God’s grace, we are ready from this very moment to be generous and courageous, and take loving care of little things: we are ready to go and meet Our Lord, with our lamps burning brightly. For the feast of feasts awaits us in Heaven. ‘Dearly beloved brethren, it is we who are called to take part in the wedding feast of the Word, we who already have faith in the Church, who are nourished on Sacred Scripture, and who rejoice because the Church is united to God. Ask yourselves now, I pray you, whether you have come to the feast wearing your wedding garment: examine your thoughts attentively.’ I assure you, and I say the same to myself, that our wedding garment has to be woven with our love of God, a love we will have learnt to reap even in the most trivial things we do. It is precisely those who are in love who pay attention to details, even when they’re doing apparently unimportant things.
But let us follow the thread of the parable. What happens to the foolish virgins? As soon as the cry is raised, they do their best to get ready to receive the Bridegroom. They go off to buy oil. But their decision had come too late, and while they were away, ‘the bridegroom came; those who stood ready escorted him to the wedding, and the door was shut. Afterwards those other virgins came, with the cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us”.’ It’s not that they hadn’t done anything. They had tried to do something… But in the end they were to hear his stern reply: ‘I do not recognize you.’ Either they didn’t know how to get ready properly or they didn’t want to and they forgot to take the sensible precaution of buying oil in due time. They were not generous enough to carry out properly the little that had been entrusted to them. They had been told with many hours to spare, but they had wasted their time.
Let us take a good honest look at our own lives. How is it that sometimes we just can’t find those few minutes it would take to finish lovingly the work we have to do, which is the very means of our sanctification? Why do we neglect our family duties? Why that tendency to rush through our prayers, or through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? How are we so lacking in calm and serenity when it comes to fulfilling the duties of our state, and yet so unhurried as we indulge in our own whims? You might say these are trifling matters. You’re right, they are, but these trifles are the oil, the fuel we need to keep our flame alive and our light shining.
“Time is a Treasure” is an excerpt from the homily given by St Josemaria Escriva on January 9th, 1956. The homily is published by Scepter Publishers in the book “Friends of God”.