Jesus said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
The Bureau of Labor came out in March of last year with their statistics on how we spend our time... with the greatest amount of time going to working and work related activities.
It breaks down like this...
Working and related activities: 8.7 hours
Sleep: 7.7 hours
Leisure and sports: 2.6 hours
Household activities: 1.1 hours
Eating and drinking: 1.1 hours
Caring for Others: 1.3 hours
Other: 1.5 hours
This means that over half the day is gone, with over 12 hours a day devoted to working, eating, household and caring activities. Then there is the time for sleeping (7.7 hours). Which leaves only a few hours left for anything else... with the majority of that extra time being assigned to the “La-z-boy and the stupid box”
Of that “other” category, 16 minutes are given to “organizational, civic, and religious” activities. If we were being generous with the religious aspect and gave it 50% of that time.. we would have 8 minutes per day.. or 56 minutes per week that we give to God.
Now... the unaware and self-righteous side of me would like to rail against those statistics... start telling folks that they need to get their priorities straight and all that... truth be told.. if I weren’t a priest - receiving a stipend so that I could spend time with God on behalf of the people - if I had a job in the secular world, children to care for.. or if I didn’t have an understanding wife who does much of what needs to be done around the house even though she has her work and life to live... If I didn’t have all these things.. I’m fairly certain that my minutes per day that I spend with God would be less than eight.. but that doesn’t mean that they should be.
Much of our life with Christ is about sacrifice... the giving up of who we are and replacing it with who He is. It is about a relationship.. and with any relationship.. it requires time.. nourishing.. giving.. and sacrifice.
As we’ve talked about in the past.. that which we give up during Lent.. that which we abstain from.. is not an act of will power... “I’m giving up coffee for Lent.. or smoking.. or whatever.” Heck, I gave up beer one Lent and really learned to enjoy red wine.... the point of abstaining from something is so that you will be able to give that time.. those resources.. etc., to God... I give up half an hour of TV a day so that I can spend that time with God... see how it works?
I read our Gospel today and it speaks of doing certain things for God... giving alms - serving Him... praying... and fasting. It talks about how we rightly do these things, not in public, not for show, etc… but with a world that is constantly demanding more and more of our time.. before we can do these things properly.. we must first learn to simply DO them... we have to figure out how to give God more than 8 minutes per day... to sacrifice something of ourselves so that we can enter more deeply into that relationship with our God. These things are not one more thing that we have to accomplish... As a Christian people.. these things are our joy! Thomas a Kempis understood these things.. and he writes...
I WILL hear what the Lord God will speak in me.".. Blessed is the soul who hears the Lord speaking within her, who receives the word of consolation from His lips. Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of divine whispering, and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world. Blessed indeed are the ears that listen, not to the voice which sounds without, but to the truth which teaches within. Blessed are the eyes which are closed to exterior things and are fixed upon those which are interior. Blessed are they who penetrate inwardly, who try daily to prepare themselves more and more to understand mysteries. Blessed are they who long to give their time to God, and who cut themselves off from the hindrances of the world.... Consider these things, my soul, and close the door of your senses, so that you can hear what the Lord your God speaks within you.. "I am your salvation," says your Beloved. "I am your peace and your life.
The Lord is your joy.. your salvation.. your peace.. and your life.... make a sacrifice.. take the time.. and hear what the Lord God will speak in you.