It’s very easy to fall into this way thinking because we often deceive ourselves into thinking that we are fine with God – but what we don’t realise is just how indifferent to God we can actually so often be. I think that another problem is that we don’t actually realise the impact that our little devotions can have. We think that they are insignificant – and this is exactly what Satan wants us to think. The Second Reading from last Sunday (Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B) deals with exactly this:
See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise,
But as wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Wherefore, become not unwise: but understanding what is the will of God.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury: but be ye filled with the Holy Spirit,
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord:
Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father.
In the midst of this passage there is a curious phrase in which St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians to “redeem the time because the days are evil”. As a Protestant, my understanding of what St. Paul was telling Christians to do was simply not to waste time taking part in frivolous activities, but rather to spend time doing things that had eternal value. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad interpretation of what St. Paul is saying – but it doesn’t do complete justice to St. Paul’s exhortation. It is true – but it is only the starting point of what St. Paul is really saying.
To understand what St. Paul is getting at, we need to understand what the word “redeem” means. Throughout the Scriptures, the idea of redemption has to do with buying something from another for the purpose of rescuing it. This (redemption) is essentially what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross of Calvary:
[Jesus] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works.
In other words, the purpose of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord was to rescue [redeem] us from our sins so that we might live for God. And it is essentially this concept of redemption that St. Paul has in mind when he instructs us to “redeem the time”.
Later in the same letter to the Ephesians, and elsewhere, St. Paul teaches that Jesus and His Church are inseparably one (Eph 5:23; 1 Cor 12:12-27; etc.). Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church – and the Church is the Body of Christ. As Christians, we are members of that Body. Whatever happens to be the concern and activity of the Head also happens to be the concern and activity of the Body and its members – if Jesus is actively involved in the redemption of souls, then the Church too is actively involved in the redemption of souls. This means that when we unite our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings to Christ, these very things become redemptive i.e. they actually achieve the salvation of souls. This is what St. Paul meant when he said that his sufferings filled up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of the Church (see Col 1:24).
So, with this in mind, we return to our phrase “redeeming the time”...
St. Paul tells us that it is “because the days are evil” that we must “redeem the time”. In other words, St. Paul is instructing Christians to live godly lives because how we live and what we do will rescue the evil days in which we live. So, more than simply being a good use of time, or simply for personal edification, things like reading the Scriptures and praying actually have a salvific effect when united to the salvific work of Jesus Christ.
This was affirmed by the Angel who spoke to the children at Fatima before the apparitions of Our Lady when he said:
“Offer up everything in your power as a sacrifice to the Lord in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”
Just as sinners are redeemed from their sin to serve God, so too we as Christians have the responsibility and ability (in Christ) to rescue these evil days for the service and glory of God.
So, next time you find yourself struggling to find motivation to perform some devotion, try to remember that your little act of devotion – as small and insignificant as it may seem to you – is infinitely powerful if it is united to the Lord Jesus Christ. Even a prayer as small as “Jesus I love Thee” is able to save a soul.
If we can remember this as we walk through our days it will become a lot easier for us to perform little acts of devotion – and so redeem the time because the days are evil.
[If you would like to explore this topic a bit further, see here]