RELIGION: We don’t seem to be able to find the time anywhere

CANON GERRY CONROY

There is, I think, in life a great temptation to live simply day to day without thought for tomorrow. There is a certain attractiveness about it, almost as if it offered a way to live without anxiety or worry about the future. On the other hand Christ’s injunction to ‘Stay awake’ carries with it an underlying suggestion that there is something to worry about. Most people already have plenty to worry about; things that seem more urgent, more immediate. Life is lived at such a pace that we seem to have less time than our ancestors did; I am sure we have all heard people say there just aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s the daily things that fill up our time, often stealing from us what is more important because we just don’t seem to be able to find the time anywhere. 

There is another saying, ‘Less haste more speed’ which could probably be applied to all of us. It is a bit of advice on how to re-capture the present moment; not in the sense of living for today only – without thought for tomorrow, but to be able to savour the richness of the present moment. It seems to me that when we are rushing around trying to fit so many different things in to our busy lives, that is precisely the circumstances that lead to God becoming side-lined. I have no doubt that is why God commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy: we need to have a day when we take a break from the ordinary things that fill up so much of our day and recover what is important, we need to rediscover the touch of eternity in everything and to do that we need space and quiet. Without that everything is in danger of being reduced to objects that serve only to satisfy our desire to possess things. We fail to appreciate them for what they are and we definitely will fail to find God in them. We may worry that we can’t afford the time to do that, we may worry it will only make us anxious and rush to fill an already overcrowded week, or we may be concerned that without all the rush we will simply become bored that we have little to do. That is where we need some of the wisdom of the proverb, less haste more speed. It’s also something that the whole ‘mindfulness’ movement has already rediscovered: the importance of taking time away from our hectic lives to reclaim life. The only difference is that the Christian tradition is about spending some of that time with God, rather than navel gazing. 

‘Stay Awake’ is a warning about what we might miss out on and the more busy we find our lives, the more pressure we find ourselves under, the more important those words are because the more likely we are to miss not just what is really important, but even to miss out on the beauty of what we already have. But perhaps that is the point, if we miss out now on what we already have, we will not recognise what is really important when it presents itself to us. We will have grown deaf and blind or have ears only to hear how much there is still to be done, or eyes to see only what will bring into our lives more to worry about. 

If we don’t welcome Christ into our lives now, when everything ends, we will not welcome him when everything is taken away and we are left only with him before us. We will still be worrying about what we miss and not see what we have.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, and St Peter’s, Bellsmyre.

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