On the Value of Time
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
All we have to decide, is what to do with the 'Time' that is given to us
There is Nothing Shorter than Time, but there is Nothing more Valuable.
There is Nothing Shorter than Time; because the Past is no-more, the
Future is 'Uncertain', and the Present is but a 'Moment'. This is what
Jesus Christ meant, when He said: "A Little While, and now you
shall not see Me". We may say the same of our Life, which, according to Saint James, is but a 'Vapor', which is soon Scattered
Forever (∞). "For what is your Life? It is a Vapor
which Appeareth for a Little While" - James 4:14. But the Time of this Life, is as Precious, as it is Short;
for, in every Moment, if we Spend it Well, we can acquire Treasures of Merits for Heaven;
but, if we Employ Time Badly, we may in each Moment 'Commit'
Sin, and 'Merit' Hell. I mean this Day to show you how Precious is every Moment of the
Time which God gives us, not to Lose it,
and much less to Commit Sin, but to Perform Good Works, and to
Save our Souls.
"Thus saith the Lord: In an Acceptable Time I have Heard thee, and in the Day of Salvation I have Helped thee" -
Isaiah 49:8. Saint Paul explains this Passage, and says, that the 'Acceptable' Time is the Time
in which God has determined-to Confer His Favors upon us. He then adds:
Behold, Now is the Acceptable Time; Behold, Now is the Day of Salvation" - 2Corinthians 6:2. The Apostle Exhorts us, not to Spend
Unprofitably, the Present Time, which he calls the Day-of
Salvation; because, perhaps, after this Day-of Salvation, there shall be no
Salvation for us. "The Time" says the same Apostle, "is Short:
it remaineth that, they that Weep be as though they Wept not; that they that Rejoice, as if they Rejoiced not; and they that Buy, as though they Possessed not;
and they that Use this World, as if they Used it not" - 1Corinthians 7:29-31. Since, then, the Time which we have
to Remain-on this Earth is Short, the Apostle tells those who Weep, that they ought not to
Weep, because their Sorrows shall soon Pass-away; and those who Rejoice,
not to Fix their Affections on their Enjoyments, because they shall soon have an End. Hence he concludes, that we should 'Use' this World, not
to Enjoy its Transitory Goods, but to Merit Eternal (∞)
"Son", says the Holy Ghost, "Observe the
Time" - Ecclesiastes. Son, Learn to Preserve Time, which is the Most Precious,
and the Greatest Gift, that God can Bestow-upon you. Saint Bernardine of Sienna teaches,
that Time is of as much Value, as God; because in every Moment-of
Time, Well-spent, the Possession-of God is Merited. He adds, that in every
Instant-of this Life, a Man may obtain the Pardon of his Sins, the
Grace of God, and the Glory of Paradise. "Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et
gloriam". Hence Saint Bonaventure says, that no Loss is of Greater Moment, than the
Loss of Time.
But, in another place, aint Bernardine says, that, though there is Nothing more-Precious than Time, there is
Nothing less-Valuable in the 'Estimation-of Men'. "Nil pretiosius tempore, nil vilius reputatur". You will see some Persons
spending Four (4) or Five (5) Hours in Play. If you ask them, why they
Lose so much Time, they answer: To 'Amuse' ourselves. Others remain Half the Day,
Standing-in the Street, or Looking-out from a Window. If you ask them what they are doing, they shall say in-reply, that they are 'Passing the
Time'. And why, says the same Saint, do you Lose this Time? Why should you
Lose even a Single (1) Hour, which the Mercy of God gives you,
to Weep for your Sins, and to Acquire the Divine Grace?
"Donec hora pertranseat, quam tibi ad agendam poenitentiam, ad acquirendam. gratiam, miseratio conditoris indulserit".
O Time, Despised-by Men during Life, how much shall you be-Desired, at
the Hour of Death, and particularly-in the Other World!
Time is a Blessing, which we Enjoy only in this Life; it is not Enjoyed-in the Next; it is
not found-in Heaven nor in Hell. In Hell,
the Damned exclaim-with Tears: "Oh! that an Hour were given to
us". They would Pay any Price, for an Hour, or for a Minute, in which they might
Repair their Eternal (∞)
Ruin. But, this Hour or Minute, they never shall have. In
Heaven, there is no Weeping; but, were the Saints capable-of
Sorrow, all their Wailing should Arise-from the Thought-of having
Lost in this Life, the Time in which they could have Acquired Greater Glory, and
from the Conviction, that this Time shall never-more be given to them. A Deceased Benedictine
Nun, appeared in Glory to a certain Person, and said, that she was in Heaven, and in the
Enjoyment-of Perfect Happiness; but that, if she could Desire anything, it would be to
Return-to Life, and to Suffer Affliction, in order-to Merit an increase-of
Glory. And she added, that, to Acquire the Glory which corresponded-to a Single (1)
Ave Maria, she would be Content-to Suffer till the Day-of Judgment, the Long and
Painful Sickness, which brought-on her Death. Hence, Saint Francis Borgia was careful to Employ
every Moment of his Time for God. When others Spoke-of Useless Things, he Conversed-with
God by Holy Affections: and so Recollected was he, that, when asked his Opinion on the Subject
of 'Conversation', he knew not what answer to make. Being corrected-for this, he said: I am Content to be considered Stupid,
rather than Lose my Time, in Vanities.
Some of you will say: What Evil am I doing? Is it not, I ask, an Evil to spend
your Time in Plays, in Conversations, and Useless Occupations, which are Unprofitable-to the Soul?
Does God give you this Time to Lose it?
"Let not", says the Holy Ghost, "the Part of a Good Gift overpass
thee" - Ecclesiastes. The Workmen, of whom Saint Matthew speaks, did no Evil; they only
Lost Time by remaining Idle-in the Streets. But they were Rebuked by the
Father-of the Family, saying: "Why stand you here all the Day Idle"? - Matthew 20:6. On the Day-of
Judgment, Jesus Christ shall Demand an Account, not only of every Month and
Day that has been Lost, but even of every Idle Word. "Every
Idle Word that Men shall speak, they shall Render an Account for it, on the Day of Judgment" - Matthew 12:36. He shall
likewise Demand an Account of every Moment-of the Time which you shall Lose. According to
Saint Bernard, all Time which is not Spent-for God, is
Lost Time. "Omne tempus quo de Deo non cogitasti, cogita te perdidisse". Hence the
Holy Ghost says: "Whatsoever thy Hand is able to do, do it Earnestly; for neither Work nor Reason
shall be in Hell, whither thou art Hastening" - Ecclesiastes 9:10. What you can do Today, defer not till
Tomorrow; for on Tomorrow, you may be Dead, and may be
gone-into Another World, where you shall have no-more Time to do Good, and where you shall
only Enjoy the Reward-of your Virtues, or
Suffer the Punishment due to your Sins.
"Today, if you shall Hear His Voice, Harden not your Hearts" - Psalm 95:7-8. God Calls you to
Confess your Sins, to Restore Ill-gotten Goods, to be
Reconciled-with your Enemies. Obey His Call Today;
for it may happen that, on Tomorrow, Time may be no-more for you, or that
God will Call you no-more. All our Salvation depends on Corresponding-with the Divine Calls,
and at the Time that God Calls us.
But some of you will perhaps say: I am Young; after some Time, I will 'Give' myself to
God. But, remember that the Gospel tells us, that Jesus Christ Cursed the Fig Tree which
He found without Fruit, although the Season-for Figs had not yet arrived. "It was not the Time for
Figs" - Mark 11:13. By this, the Savior Wished to-signify that Man, at all Times,
even in Youth, should Produce Fruits of Good Works; and that otherwise, like the Fig Tree, he shall be
Cursed, and shall Produce no Fruit for the Future. "May no Man hereafter eat any more Fruit of thee, For ever"
- Mark 11:13. "Delay not to be Converted to the Lord, and Defer it not from Day to Day; for his Wrath shall come on a Sudden" -
Ecclesiastes. If you find your Soul in the State of Sin, Delay not your
Repentance, nor your Confession; do not put them off, even till Tomorrow;
for, if you do not Obey the Voice of God, Calling you Today,
to Confess your Sins, Death may this
Day Overtake you in Sin, and Tomorrow there may be no
Hope of Salvation for you. The Devil regards the Whole of our Life as very Short, and
therefore he Loses-not a Moment-of Time, but Tempts us
Day and Night. "The Devil is come down unto you having Great
Wrath, knowing that he hath but a Short Time" - Revelation 12:12. The Enemy, then, never
Loses Time in seeking to bring us to Hell: and shall we
Squander the Time which God has given us to
Save our Souls?
You say: I will hereafter 'Give' myself to God. But "Why", answers
Saint Bernard, "do you, a Miserable Sinner, Presume on the Future, as if the Father placed Time in your Power"? Why do
you Presume that you will hereafter 'Give' yourself to God, as if He had given to
you the Time and Opportunity of returning-to Him, whenever you Wish? Job said with
Trembling, that he knew not whether another Moment-of his Life remained: "For I know
not how long I shall Continue, and whether after a while, my Maker may take me away" - Job 32:22. And you say: I will not go to
Confession Today; I will think of it Tomorrow.
"Diem tenes", says Saint Augustine, "qui horam non tenes". How can you Promise yourself,
another Day, when you know not whether you shall Live for an Hour?
"If", says Saint Teresa, "you are not prepared to Die Today, Tremble, lest you Die an Unhappy
Saint Bernardine Weeps over the Blindness of those
Negligent Christians, who Squander the Days of
Salvation, and never consider that a Day, once Lost, shall never return.
"Transeunt dies, salutis et nemo recogitat sibi perire diem et nunquam rediturum". At the Hour
of Death, they shall Wish for another Year, or for another Day;
but they shall not have it: they shall then be told that, Time shall be no-more. What Price would they not then
Give, for another Week, for a Day, or even for an Hour, to
Prepare the Account which they must then Render-to God? Saint Lawrence Justinian says, that for a Single
(1) Hour, they would give all their Property, all their Honors, and all their Delights. "Erogaret opes, honores, delicias, pro una
horula". But this Hour shall not be granted to them. The Priest who attends them shall say:
"Depart, depart immediately from this Earth; for your Time is no more. Go forth, Christian Soul, from this World".
What will it Profit the Sinner who has led an Irregular Life, to exclaim at
Death: Oh! that I had Led a Life of Sanctity. Oh! that I had Spent my Years in Loving God!
How Great is the Anguish of a Traveler, who, when the Night has Fallen, Perceives that he has Missed-the-Way, and that there is
no more Time to Correct his Mistake! Such shall be
the Anguish at Death, of those who have Lived many Years
in the World, but have not spent them for God. "The Night Cometh, when no Man can
Work" - John 9:4. Hence the Redeemer says to all: "Walk whilst you have Light, that the
Darkness, overtake you not" - John 12:35. Walk in the Way of Salvation, now that you have the
Light, before you are Surprised-by the Darkness of Death, in which you can do Nothing. You can then only
Weep over the Time which you have Lost.
"He hath called against me the Time". At the Hour of
Death, Conscience will remind us of all the Time which we have had, to become
Saints, and which we have employed-in Multiplying our Debts
to God. It will remind us of all the Calls and of all the Graces
which He has given us, to make us Love Him, and which we have Abused.
At that Awful Moment, we shall also see that the Way to Salvation, is
Closed Forever (∞). In the midst-of these Remorses,
and of the Torturing Darkness of Death, the Dying Sinner shall say:
Oh! Fool that I have been! O Life Misspent! O Lost
Years, in which I could have gained Treasures of Merits, and have become a Saint; but, I have
Neglected both, and now the Time of Saving my
Soul is Gone Forever (∞).
But, of what use shall these Railings and Lamentations be, when the Scene-of this World is
about to Close, the Lamp is on the Point-of being Extinguished, and when the Dying
Christian has arrived at that Great Moment, on which Eternity (∞) depends?
"Be you then also Ready; for, at what Hour you think not, the Son of Man will come" - Luke 12:40. The
Lord says: "Be prepared". He does not
Tell us to Prepare ourselves when Death 'Approaches', but to be Ready-for His
Coming; because, when we think Least-of Death, the Son of Man shall Come and Demand an
Account-of our Whole Life. In the Confusion of Death, it will be most Difficult
to Adjust our Accounts, so as to appear Guiltless before the Tribunal of Jesus Christ. Perhaps
Death may not come-upon us for Twenty (20) or Thirty (30) Years;
but it may also come very-soon, perhaps in a Year or in a Month. If anyone had
Reason to Fear that a Trial should take place, on which his Life depended, he certainly
would not Wait for the Day of Trial, but would as-soon-as possible, employ
an Advocate to Plead his Cause. And what do we do? We know for certain, that we must One Day be Judged, and that on the
Result-of that Judgment, our Eternal (∞), not our
Temporal, Life depends. We also know that that Day, may be very-near at-hand; and still we
Lose our Time, and, instead of Adjusting our Accounts, we go on Daily Multiplying
the Crimes which will Merit for us the Sentence-of Eternal
If, then, we have hitherto employed our Time in Offending
God, let us henceforth endeavor-to Bewail our
Misfortune for the Remainder-of our Life, and say continually with the Penitent King Hezekiah:
"I will Recount to Thee, all my Years in the Bitterness of my Soul" - Isaiah 38:15. The
Lord gives us the remaining Days of Life, that we may 'Compensate' the
Time that has been Badly spent. "Whilst we have Time, let us Work Good" -
Galatians 6:10. Let us not Provoke the Lord to
Punish us by an Unhappy Death; and if, during the Years that are Past, we
have been Foolish, and have Offended Him, let us
now attend-to the Apostle, Exhorting us to be Wise for the Future, and to Redeem the
Time we have Lost. See, therefore, Brethren, now you walk
Circumspectly, not as Unwise, but as Wise, Redeeming the Time, because the Days are Evil . . . Understanding what is the Will of God" -
Ephesians 5:15-17. "The Days are Evil". According to Saint Anselm, the meaning of these words is, that the
Days of this Life are Evil, because in them, we are Exposed-to a Thousand (1000)
Temptations which are Evil; and Dangers of
Eternal (∞) Misery; and therefore, to Escape
Perdition, all possible care is necessary. "What", says Saint Augustine,
"is meant by Redeeming the Time, unless, when necessary, to submit to Temporal Loss in order to Gain Eternal Goods"? We
should Live only to fulfill with all Diligence the Divine Will; and, should it be necessary, it is better to
Suffer in Temporal Things, than to Neglect our
Eternal (∞) Interests. Oh! how well did
Saint Paul Redeem the Time which he had Lost!
Saint Jerome says, that though the Last of the Apostles, he was, on account of his Great Labors, the
First in Merits. "Paul, the Last in Order, but the First in Merits, because he Labored
more than all". Let us consider that, in each Moment, we may lay-up Greater Treasures of
Eternal (∞) Goods. If the Possession of all the Land, round which
you could Walk, or of all the Money which you could Count in a Day, were promised you, would you Lose
Time? or would you not Instantly begin to Walk over the Ground, or to Reckon the Money? You now have it in your Power to Acquire, in each Moment,
Eternal (∞) Treasures; and will you,
notwithstanding, Misspend your Time? Do not say, that what you can do
Today, you can also do Tomorrow; because this Day shall then be
Lost to you, and shall never Return. You have this Day; but perhaps
Tomorrow will not be given you.
- End of Liguori Sermon -
O my God, Help me to Remember -
That Time is Short, Eternity is Long.
What Good is all the Greatness of this World, at the Hour of Death?
To Love You, my God, and Save my Soul, is the One Thing necessary.
Without You, there is no Peace, no Joy.
My God, I need Fear nothing but Sin.
For to Lose You, my God, is to Lose All.
O my God, Help me to Remember -
That to Gain all, I must Leave all,
That in Loving You, I have all Good Things: the Infinite Riches of Christ and
His Church, the Motherly Protection of Mary, Peace beyond Understanding, Joy unspeakable!
Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be Given to us.
In His Name I Pray: Give me a Burning Faith, a Joyful Hope, a Holy Love for Jesus Christ. Give me the Grace of
Perseverance in doing Your Will in all things. Do with me, what You Will. I Repent of having Offended You.
Grant, O Lord, that I may Love You always, and never let me be Separated from You.
O my God and my All, make me a Saint!
Saint Alphonsus Liguori