Value of Time

“Son, observe the time.”
cf Sirach 4:20

NemesisAlfredRethel(AngelHourglass)002“Son,” says the Holy Ghost, “be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life.” The very pagans knew the value of time. Seneca said that no price is an equivalent for it. “Nullum temporis pretium.” But the saints have understood its value still better. According to St. Bernardine of Siena, a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man can, by acts of contrition or of love, acquire the grace of God and eternal glory. “Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam. Tempus tantum valet, quantum Deus: quippe in tempore bene consumpto comparatur Deus.” (Fer. quarta post Dom. I. quad., cap. iv.)

Time is a treasure which is found only in this life; it is not found in the next, either in hell or in heaven. In hell the damned exclaim with tears, “O that an hour was given to us!” They would pay any price for an hour of time, in which they might repair their ruin; but this hour they shall never have. In heaven there is no wailing; but, were the saints capable of weeping, all their tears should arise from the thought of having lost the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time shall never again be given to them. A deceased Benedictine nun appeared in glory to a certain person, and said that she was perfectly happy; but that, if she could desire any thing, it would be to return to life, and to suffer pains and privations in order to merit an increase of glory. She added that, for the glory which corresponds to a single Ave Maria, she would be content to endure till the day of judgment the painful illness which caused her death.

My brother, how do you spend your time? Why do you always defer till to-morrow what you can do to-day? Remember that the time which is past is no longer yours; the future is not under your control; you have only the present for the performance of good works. “Why, O miserable man,” says St. Bernard, “do you presume on the future, as if the Father had placed time in your power?” (Serm. xxxviii. de Part, &c.) St. Augustine asks, “Diem tenes qui horam non tenes?” How can you, who are not sure of an hour, promise yourself to-morrow? “If, then,” says St. Teresa, “you are not prepared for death to-day, tremble lest you die an unhappy death.”

Affections and Prayers

O my God, I thank thee for the time which thou givest me to repair the disorders of my past life. Were I to die at this moment, the remembrance of the time I have lost should be one of my greatest torments. Ah, my Lord, thou hast given me time to love thee, and I have spent it in offending thee. I deserve to be sent to hell from the first moment in which I turned my back upon thee; but thou hast called me to repentance, and hast pardoned me. I promised to offend thee no more; but how often have I returned to sin! How often hast thou pardoned my ungrateful relapses! Blessed forever be thy mercy. If it were not infinite, how couldst thou have had so much patience with me? Who could have borne with me so long? O, how sorry do I feel for having offended so good a God! My Savior, the patience alone with which thou waitest for me ought to enamor me of thee. Ah! Do not suffer me to live any longer ungrateful to the love thou hast had for me. Detach me from every creature, and draw me entirely to thyself O my God, I will no longer dissipate the time thou givest me to repair the evil that I have done; I will spend it all in serving and loving thee. Give me holy perseverance. I love thee, O Infinite Goodness, and hope to love thee for eternity. I thank thee, O Mary; by thy advocacy thou hast obtained for me this time which is given to me. Assist me now, and obtain for me the grace to spend it all in loving thy Son, my Redeemer, and in loving thee, my queen and my mother.

Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).

Art: Nemesis, Alfred Rethel, 1837, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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