He dwells among us: Our days are numbered

How will we use the time we have left? Three important top for making the most of our moments

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

It doesn’t happen that often, but this year it does. We will be in Ordinary Time for the whole month of February.

That’s right – Lent begins on March 1. So, what message could we glean for the shortest month of the year, one that is often the coldest, at least here in Tennessee, and is blanketed this year by Ordinary Time? I offer these thoughts in a three-part reply:

First, Ordinary Time. “Ordinary” in the language of the Church has a different meaning than our common use of the word in English. In the liturgical cycle, it comes from the Latin word that means “ordered” or “numbered.” It refers to the fact that the weeks of the year are numbered and follow in succession.

It further reminds us that our time is ordered around the mystery of Christ: his conception, birth, hidden life, public ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign in glory. As the beautiful words of the blessing of the paschal candle at the Easter Vigil liturgy say: “Christ yesterday and today; the Beginning and the End; the Alpha and the Omega; all time belongs to him and all the ages…”

Time is a gift from God, and it belongs to Him. The important question we need to ask ourselves is, “How will we use it?” We also can ask ourselves, is there a certain orderliness in my life or are things “out of order?” Being disciplined and having regular routines is an immense help to our overall good spiritual and physical well-being. For this very reason, I’m a strong advocate for praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. It helps us to develop a spiritual rhythm and order to our day.

There’s a great passage from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings that comes to mind. In the first book, Frodo tells Gandalf that he wished he lived in different times, because he doesn’t want to face the terrible things that he foresees will happen in his own lifetime. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

It’s good to remember that our days are numbered, and I don’t mean just in a calendar. We have only so many days left on earth. We want to be ready at any time for our Lord to call us home. This has become all the more clear to me in the past year as I accompanied and ministered to some very dear friends, my brother Larry, and brother priests in their last moments on earth.

Let’s use our time well. Love and forgive one another. Go to confession. Care for others. Be kind and patient. Exercise regularly and watch your diet. Make healthy choices. Most of all, be intent on having good spiritual health. Pray every day. Go to Mass on Sundays and more often if you can. Read and meditate on Scripture. Be merciful. Have hope.

My second point is an emphasis on hope. The main color of liturgical vestments for Ordinary Time is green, the color we associate with hope. When I think of hope, one of the Psalms regularly prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours comes to mind: “Why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God, I will praise him still, my savior and my God” (43:5). Hope directs our heart to God, who is Lord of both time and eternity, which together with faith is what draws heaven into our present moment. This is the hope that St. Paul says “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

And finally, No. 3. In our Catholic tradition, what is February dedicated to? We know May is to Mary; June to the Sacred Heart; October is to the rosary. What about February? It’s dedicated to the Holy Family.

May Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph be our inspiration in how we can better love and treasure our families. I give you one more Scripture verse to bring to prayer and put into practice in your lives: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

In conclusion, let us take to heart the words of St. John Paul II: “Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ!” He “knows the secret of time… and time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained.”

During this blessed Ordinary Time, I wish you and your families extraordinary grace and peace from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus that beats unceasingly out of love for you. Happy St. Valentine’s Day! ■

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