Time is a most important gift given to us by Our Lord. The use of time, in the way that Our Lord intended, will lead to eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. This, He has promised to us on numerous occasions. Squandering this precious gift, however, can lead to the damnation of our immortal soul. Throughout Holy Scripture, Our Lord promised this as well. For example, the Gospel of Saint Matthew (25: 31-46) on the Last Judgment drives this point home. Note the forthright tone and powerful delivery of Our Lord’s words, which are as follows:
“At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: ‘When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, and then He will sit on the throne of His glory; and before Him will be gathered all nations; and He will separate the one from another…..Then the king will say to those on His right hand ‘Come, blessed of My Father, take possession of the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; naked and you covered Me; sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me….’ Then He will say to those on His left hand, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you DID NOT (my emphasis) give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me NO drink; I was a stranger and you DID NOT take me in; naked and you DID NOT clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you DID NOT visit Me…’”
Imagine Our Lord, Christ the King, appearing in all His splendor and majesty surrounded by legions of His angels, more powerful than any military force of all the combined nations on planet earth. All of those souls, who Our Lord ever created, anxiously gather around Him as He sits on His throne, preparing to judge them. The presence of Christ the King is in marked contrast to the gentle, compassionate Jesus, Who allowed Himself to be crucified by His enemies in order to save mankind. Christ the King is all-just. He means business on this, His second coming, and warned us that this day-of-judgment would come and we should prepare ourselves accordingly. Weeping and the gnashing of teeth would follow for those who failed to do so.
January 1st, the Circumcision of Our Lord — the day on which He first shed His blood for our sins — is designated as the Octave Day of Christmas on the Church’s calendar. In the secular world, January 1st is New Years Day. The upcoming year, we are told, presents us with the opportunity to begin anew — a chance to start over and catch hold of the happiness, which has eluded us in the past. It is on New Year’s Eve that we make promises, which are called resolutions. We commit ourselves to overcoming some minor character flaw or bad habit. However, our once well-intentioned resolutions are usually broken shortly thereafter. But who takes making resolutions seriously? Resolutions, we rationalize, are made to be broken. The promises that we make on New Year’s Eve are a fun-filled way to pass our time and share jokes with others about our short comings. However, deep down inside we know that despite our promises, nothing will change. We have no intention that it should. Every New Year begins with the “same-old-same-old” rituals and ends in stagnation. This is simply a way to pass time, until the next New Year’s Eve party, after another 365 days have dropped from the calendar.
As we pass through our youth and middle age years, participating in the preceding is recognized for what it is — a silly waste of time. We become more acutely aware that the gift of life, given to us by Our Lord, does not last forever. Time, like everything else in the world, runs out. How we use the remaining time allotted to us then becomes critical. Whether our soul is saved or damned will depend on this. Salvation or damnation will be the only alternatives. It will be either one or the other. There will be no place in between — no second chance so that we can try again. Thinking about this, of course, can be a frightening prospect, particularly if we have failed to prepare ourselves for the inevitable. Avoidance is so much easier. Filling our time in pursuing the momentary pleasures of life is much more fun.
Some of you might recall the song “Those Were the Days,” which was sung by Mary Hopkin. This rose to the top of the charts in 1968. The lyrics of “Those Were the Days” drive home the preceding point. These were as follows:
Once upon the time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way
Those were the days, oh yes they were the days
Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say
Those were the days my friend……….
Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed to be the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that woman really me
Those were the days my friend……….
Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For our hearts and dreams are still the same
Those were the days my friend……….
The preceding lyrics remind us that youth and its fleeting pleasures gradually fade away. Time does run out. If we have failed to use it wisely, regret and a bitter aftermath is all that will remain. The Piper, alias the Prince of Darkness, must then be paid for his services, even though we now know that we have been cheated.
The world’s perception of the passing of time and how it should be used differs markedly from that which Our Lord teaches us. The lyrics of popular songs are good examples of the former. For instance, the song entitled “As Time Goes By” has become a classic in this regard. “As Time Goes By” was authored by Herman Hupfeld in 1931. It was written for the musical “Everybody’s Welcome.” While the song was well received, it reached its pinnacle of fame ten years later, a fame which continues to this day.
“As Time Goes By” became the signature song, which was sung by the piano player, Sam, in the movie Casablanca. Casablanca was released in 1942. This classic film starred Humphrey Bogart (Rick) and Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa). The movie took place at the beginning of World War II when Nazi Germany was the dominant force in North Africa. It was a time in which the best and worst characteristics of mankind unveiled themselves in the quest for power and financial gain. Romance and the trials and tribulations of forbidden love between Rick and Ilsa are the underlying theme throughout the movie. “As Time Goes By” is the love song unifying their relationship. It was their love song, the stiletto, which opened old wounds unleashing great pain associated with their romantic past.
While the melody is pleasant to the human ear, it is the lyrics which convey the writer’s perception of time and those events that repeatedly occur with its passing. Note the lyrics at the song’s beginning: “And no matter what the progress — Or what may yet to be proved — The simple facts of life as such — They cannot be removed.” So there are simple facts of life, facts that are immutable, carved into stone. These cannot be changed and will always repeat themselves “As Time Goes By.”
These lyrics continue on, identifying these simple unchangeable facts, which are as follows: “You must remember this — A kiss is still a kiss — A sigh is just a sign — The fundamental things apply — As time goes by — And when two lovers woo — They still say ‘I love you’ — On that you can rely — No matter what the future brings — As time goes by — Moonlight and love songs — Never out of date — Hearts full of passion — Jealously and hate — Women needs man — And man must have his mate — That no one can deny — Well, it’s still the same old story — A fight for love and glory — A case of do or die — The world will always welcome lovers — As time goes by.”
These are the immutable truths, which are self-evident — truths that are “never out of date” and “no one can deny.” Human love — love between a man and a woman. This is the driving, instinctual force that governs our behavior as we pass from one generation to the next. Unfortunately, these simple facts leave us with an empty palate when our time on earth runs out. What about life after death? What about Our Lord and Our Lady’s promises? What about the graces that they promised to shower upon those of us who remained loyal and steadfastly followed their teachings up to the last moment of our earthly demise? These simple truths, which are “never out of date” are absent in “As Time Goes By.” There is no solace here, especially when we need it most.
As we pass through the stages of life, time seems to pass more quickly. Who among us doesn’t regret the poor use of this precious commodity, particularly during our youthful and middle years when we are at “the top of our game,” before the erosion of our natural powers begins? The line “those were the days my friend; we thought they’d never end” becomes more meaningful when we discover that we are not invincible. It was The Father of Lies and his demonic followers who tricked us into believing that this was so. Again, the bill of fare for his services must now be paid, despite the bitter aftermath.
Yes, even a few minutes of our earthly time can make a huge difference in saving our soul and the souls of our loved ones. For example, a last minute act of contrition could lead to the salvation of our own immortal soul. Think of “the good thief,” Dismas, who petitioned Our Lord to take him into heaven with Him, while they were suffering on crosses. Our Lord granted his petition. In less than a minute, this life-long reprobate’s sins were forgiven, and he “stole” his way into paradise. Again, what a difference a few seconds can make. What wouldn’t a condemned soul give for a few minutes of extended time here on earth — a last minute opportunity to avoid the pain of being punished for eternity? What about the souls suffering in purgatory? What wouldn’t they give now for fifteen minutes of of earthly time? You and I are alive and can still earn merit — we can say a Rosary on their behalf, which would shorten their sentence in this temporary hell.
As we enter the year 2017, keep in mind that Our Lord promised to reward and punish us according to how we used His precious gift of time. Consider Our Lord’s words in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (16:27): “For the Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father’s glory and then He will repay everyone according to his conduct.” This is food for thought as we enter the New Year with time remaining and the opportunity to use it wisely, “As Time Goes By.”
“Who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” (Saint Luke, 18:30). This quote from Our Lord reminds us that each day which passes is more than a twenty-four hour period of time dropping off of our earthly calendar. Rather, the passing of each day brings us closer to the end of our time here on planet earth. Upon our demise, life eternal begins. How we used our earthly time, this precious gift from Our Lord, will determine whether we spend life everlasting in heaven or a life of unending death in hell.