This first week of 2017 follows the nation’s celebration of two federal holidays: Christmas and New Year’s Days. Since each fell on a Sunday, most places of business chose to treat their employees to a holiday on the following Monday. On many calendars, the word Observed appeared in parentheses. For workplaces that participated in this commemoration, it was more than an observation; it was a gift!
As members of a society that tends to work hard and long days, two additional holidays may have been the best gift many of us received, despite its lack of Christmas wrapping paper and bows. Truly, time is a treasured blessing and resource, and how we use it reveals our identity and expresses our values. In parallel fashion, Jesus reminds us in Matthew’s gospel: “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (6:21). Could we paraphrase this: Where we spend our time, there also will our treasure be?
Among the New Year’s resolutions we will make, how many involve the use of our time? If we enjoyed the extra rest from the observed holidays, perhaps this is a gentle nudging of the Spirit inviting us to examine how well we spend our time. To prevent waste, family, personal, and business budgets are regularly assessed to see how money is spent. Might a prayerful reflection over a time budget help improve our family or spiritual lives? Like the budgets that guide our homes and businesses, categories are necessary: Healthcare, food, and transportation are samples for the revenue and expense spreadsheets. To examine our use of time, would prayer, reflection, and time with loved ones garner appropriate attention?
All of the gospel readings for the four different Christmas masses—vigil, dawn, midnight, and day—include references to time. Obviously, Jesus was born at a specific time in history. Likewise, we cooperate with grace, in time, in order to help build the kingdom of peace and justice that Jesus inaugurated with his public ministry. How much time we give to this work is worth our mature and reasoned consideration.
St. Francis de Sales once wrote: “We should manage our years, our months, our weeks, our days, our hours, our moments so well that, being employed for the love of God, they all may be profitable for us in eternal life.” Indeed, it is possible that we are not able to give large amounts of time to prayer or service. We can, however, offer our time spent otherwise for the love of God. The Direction of Intention is an ideal prayer for this purpose. We Oblates, through The Spiritual Directory of St. Francis de Sales, which is also our Rule of Life, commit to saying this prayer throughout our day to connect our actions—our time—to God. We invite you to join us:
The Direction of Intention
My God, I give you this action.
Please give me the grace to conduct myself during it
in a manner most pleasing to you.
Together, let us offer our lives—and the minutes, hours, days, and weeks that comprise them—to our gentle and loving God who observes us with mercy regardless of how we spend our time.