In today’s epistle we find this somewhat strange expression from the hand of St Paul: “See how you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15). That the days are evil is no secret; just about every day bad news reaches our ears, even tucked away in a cloister, some of it very bad, much of it of colossal proportions. And I am not talking about sunamis and earthquakes — not to deny the terrible tragedy those are for the people who must live through them —, I refer rather to the spiritual earthquakes, the tremors of which we felt long ago, but the disastrous consequences of which are becoming more and more apparent almost with each passing day. You would think St Paul was writing for us. “Redeem the time, for the days are evil”. How do we go about “redeeming the time”? And how is time lost?
Time is lost through sin; it is also lost through idleness. By idleness, I don’t just mean sitting around and doing nothing; I also mean spending lots of time doing things which are not God’s will for us — the lazy person is not only the one who lies around on a sofa watching TV all day long, but also the person who busies himself with a thousand things that are none of his concern. The psalmist refers to such people as having become useless: “simul inutiles facti sunt” (Ps 13). Time is precious, a gift of God to us, all the more so in that it is in limited quantity: the time of our life on earth is placed within very strict boundaries which will not be moved; each moment of it is give us so that we might use it for the purpose God gave us when He created us: to praise Him, to love Him, to serve Him in all things and to help our brothers and sisters do the same, and thus attain eternal happiness in Heaven. Anything and everything with is not in some way ordered to that end of eternal salvation is idle, it is useless, and it needs to be redeemed. So “redeeming the time” means making up for all the time we have lost in sin or in busying ourselves with futilities that have no relation whatsoever with our eternal salvation.
Some of the saints had a very acute consciousness of how precious time is in the sight of God, and even went so far as to make a vow to never lose time. A formidable task indeed! For most of us, such a vow would be unwise, but when we come to perceive all things in the light of the eternity in which we shall soon find ourselves and where we will be rewarded or punished for all, absolutely all of our thoughts, words and deeds, then we understand its value.
Th practical ways of redeeming the time are, first of all, stop losing it now! Get oneself organised each day in such a way that all our activities which we have discerned to be in conformity with God’s will, have their slot in our daily schedule. Prayer and spiritual reading are obviously the unavoidable tools for redeeming the time, for every minute we spend thinking of God or acting in His Name will be counted as reparation for the time we have lost in the past.
St Paul gives us this recipe for redeeming the time: “Be filled with the Holy spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord: giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father; being subject one to another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5).
Let that be our program, and we shall indeed redeem the time. Don’t forget: the days are evil.