Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What's In Your Wallet?

I have loved those barbarians-at-the-gate ads for Capital One ever since the conquering hordes lost their jobs. Of course, after all the silly jobs the barbarians try to take, we see how poorly they assimilate into the society. The tagline for the ad is always the same: "What's In Your Wallet?" This is supposed to build incentive to get a Capital One card and thus forestall, you guessed it, barbarians at the gate. However, I think there might be a proper meditation for the first day of Lent as well.

After all, what is the call of Lent but to assess where your treasures lie? In the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, we are not told to avoid prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Instead, the Lord renews these acts of religion by leading his disciples to the heart of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, recasting it as a service of the Father who sees in secret. It's like an actor or a musician who slaves away to get a piece of music or a particular scene pitch perfect. The audience sees and applauds the final result; God and the actor and the coaches and all the others who work on the show see the hours and hours of saying, "That's not it; try again!" The Father is the one applauding at the end of each day's effort, seeing not only the finished product but each of the steps in between.

So, where do your priorities lie? This is a little exercise that might help. Get a piece of paper and make three columns. In the far left column, list your top ten priorities in your life as you see it right now. List them in order of importance, number one being most important and going down from there. In the middle column, take an account of how you use your time in a week, then divide by 168 hours to figure out what percentage of your week is used in that activity. In the third column, relist your stated priorities in the order of the amount of time spent on each activity, starting from greatest and going down from there. It should prove illuminating.

For example, the average person sleeps 8 hours a day. That would run down to 56 hours a week or 33% of your week. Think about that. A third of your life is spent sleeping. If you work at an average job, then you put in about 40 hours a week or 24% of your week. However, if you are the type of Catholic whose total service to God is rendered in your mind by simply attending Sunday Mass, then you have only spent 0.1% of your week on God. I find it hard to say that God is a priority in my life when I only spend 0.1% of my week to his service. How am I going to make a change that makes things fit more appropriately?

Today is the day acceptable. Today is the day to start anew. May you have a blessed Lent.

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