Stephen Covey, a well-known American management guru, once did a demonstration during a business class. He started to drop a handful of rocks of various sizes about the size of a fist, one by one, into a 1-gallon mason jar. When he could no longer fit another rock into the jar, he brought out a bucket of gravel and started filling the gaps between the rocks in the jar. Then, he brought out a bucket of sand and did the same; the sand filled up the gaps between the big rocks and the gravel. Finally, he filled the jar with water to the top.  Then, he asked his students what this demonstration could mean? One of his students eagerly answered, “No matter how tight your schedule may be, if you make extra efforts, you will be able to put even more things on your plate!” Stephen Covey responded, “No! That’s not the point. This demonstration tells us that if you don’t put the big rocks into the jar first, you will never be able to fit them in at all.”

The big rocks symbolize the things in our lives that are the most important. Gravel pieces represent things of secondary or medium importance, while sand represents everything else much less important in life. The order in which the different sizes of rocks and sand are placed in the jar is very important. If we put the big rocks in first, there is still a chance for the gravel and sand to be put into the jar.  Otherwise, when the gravel and sand have filled the jar, it is impossible for the big rocks to be put into the jar.

Isn’t this a vivid portrayal of our life as Christians? If we fail to put first in our life “the better part”, or life’s “one necessary thing”, all the spaces in our life will be taken up with minor or frivolous “many things”. As a result, we will lose our opportunity to complete the most important things in our life.

Therefore, not only should we strive to rid our life of all kinds of “attachment”, assuming that we have a variety of preferences and interests, especially those hobbies that drain our time, energy and financial resources, but also we should never make them the “big rocks” in our life. We need to learn how to prioritize; otherwise, our interests and hobbies will turn into our “idols”.

Certainly, the “cornerstone” of our life is our Lord Jesus Christ, who needs to be “the largest rock” in our life, thus, has to be given top priority and placed at the centre of our life!

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, Verses 1-2, Jesus said to His disciples,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”

(John 15:1-2)

Indeed, the “one necessary thing” in our life is to take refuge and live in Christ, allowing our Heavenly Father to prune us so that we may denounce our “many things” and focus on bearing fruits. When we are not distracted by “many things” in our life, the fruits we bear will be more solid and stronger. How well we fare can be judged by the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our life (ref. Galatians 5:22-23).

When we have laid down all the unnecessary things in our life, we will be able to free up more space, and be more flexible and energetic to accept God’s invitation to collaborate with Him on “the duty of the moment” in the here and now. Furthermore, like Mary on the day of the Annunciation who graciously accepts God’s intervention in her life and welcomes the Holy Spirit as her guide in life, we will be able to respond to God’s “unexpected invitations” with more flexibility and prepare a space in which God may work through us.

Let us yearn for this flexibility in our lives so that we may become God’s humble but useful collaborators, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us in order to fulfil the “greater works” that God the Father has entrusted to us. 


Would you consider God as the “big rock” or “gravel”, mentioned in this reflection, in your life?

Do you prioritize your relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord in your life, the one that you will put into your “jar” first? Would you consider it an “important relationship”? Or, not only important, but first and foremost?

Laying down “many things” can be painful. Are you willing to accept our Heavenly Father’s pruning so that you may be freed from all of your life’s “attachments”?

Today’s Prayer

Dearest Abba Father, I feel that I may have too many attachments in my life; my reluctance and inability to let go of my preferences and stubbornness have prevented me from focusing on bearing rich fruits. I willingly put my life under Your pruning shears and let You trim away everything that displeases You, so that I may bear fruits in Christ.  Strengthen my faith in You; I welcome Your intervention in my life, just as You had intervened in the lives of Mary and many holy men and women. Help me to become someone who yearns for You; a child who obeys Your will. I willingly lay down my “preferences”, and wholeheartedly, live in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit!  For this I pray, in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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