About a week or so ago, an old friend mentioned that his Halloween decorations had gone up. Yes, “commercial USA” is abuzz these days, ramping up for the huge “holiday push”: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Some folks are preparing their Halloween costumes, while others, planning further ahead, are assembling their Christmas shopping lists and scheduling their time off, coordinating with spouses and friends, making trips to the nearest mall or outlet store, and so on. The time will fly.
The leaves on the trees will turn to bright or brown shades and make a crunchy carpet on the lawn. Elementary school children will be using up their crayons on oversized drawings of pumpkins and turkeys and presents under the Christmas tree. Grocery stores are stocking up on baking supplies, and newspapers are being stuffed with seasonal sale ads. It all comes and goes so quickly, but does it come and go too soon? What will you take away from the “holiday push”? How will you fill your time? Will you allow yourself to be carried away by the rush, or will you set aside a little time each day to reflect?
Pope Benedict has declared a “Year of Faith” beginning this Thursday. Now might be a good time to think about ways we could participate. We might budget a few moments each day or week to reflect on the Sunday Gospel, for example, or to pray one of the prayers composed for the Year of Faith—a simple Internet search will yield several. How often have we wasted five or ten minutes while waiting for food to heat up on the stove or for the defroster to clear off the windshield? Why not use this time to ruminate on how God may be asking us to respond to today’s challenges in faith?
One of the most beautiful reflections on time is Qoheleth’s, found in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Each phrase of each verse deserves prayerful meditation:
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant . . .
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace . . .
I have seen the business that God has given to mortals to be busied about. God has made everything beautiful in its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. (Eccl 3:1–2, 7–8, 11)
What “business” has God given us to be “busied about?” How have the times in our lives been “a time to give birth” or “a time to die?” What is the time God gives us today, and how will we respond to it? A prayer of Moses reminds us of life’s brevity: “Our life is over like a sigh. Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong, and most of these are emptiness and pain; they pass quickly and we are gone.” (Ps 90: 9b–10). Let us, then, take Qoheleth’s words to heart, and keep in mind that there is “a time for everything”:
I recognized that there is nothing better than to rejoice and to do well during life. Moreover, that all can eat and drink and enjoy the good of all their toil—this is a gift of God . . . Thus has God done, that he may be revered.” (Eccl 3:10–13, 14b)