Time is a problem for us. We live lives filled with multiple options with an array of many things to do and opportunities to engage ourselves in any number of tasks. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, we have so many things to do we don’t know which ones to tackle first. Our attempts to organize our time seem to be continually frustrated, frustrated by the many new things that come to us each and every day.
Consider, for instance, what happens to us when we’re on vacations. It isn’t long before we’re organizing our vacation times with things to do, sometimes so much so that when we return home we are exhausted by what we have done on our vacations, times spent away during which we found anything but rest. Some of us come home from our vacations in order to rest!
Clearly, time is a problem for us. I marvel at what is required of mothers and fathers each and every day. I find myself asking, “How do they do it?” How do they manage their lives with all that seems to be required of them in caring for their children, getting their children to and from so many commitments, neglecting even the time they, as parents, need for each other?
Are there any families left in which everyone in the family shares a Sunday dinner together? Do husbands and wives have much time, any time, badly needed time, for themselves — for the health and development of their own relationships with each other? What has happened to intimacy? Does it have much content anymore?
Our Church organizes time, not according to calendar and clock, but according to significant events. The Liturgical Year is her gift to us in order that, in spite of all that the world hurls at us, we might steal moments in which we consider what we do with the times we have in our lives along with the significant events that occur in these special times.
New Testament Greek uses the word chronos to denote the measurement of time as clocks and calendars measure time. But New Testament Greek also uses another carefully selected word, kairos, moments in which we experience events of significance and meaning.
When you ask someone to marry you it is an event that occurs in kairos time. Graduation time is another such event. Your photograph album takes you out of chronos time and puts you into kairos time, the times of your life that more fully and truly measure what has happened in your life.
After Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, instead of immediately embarking on His public ministry, Jesus puts himself in a place where time doesn’t matter. He goes out into the desert for forty days and forty nights, there to come to terms with who He is and what His life is to be all about, and what sort of Messiah His Father has called Him to be. This was for Him a time full of great significance.
He needed to enter into that in order to maintain a steady balance when He began His public ministry following that initial time in the desert. He needed to have within himself a clear understanding of just what He was about when He faced spiritually and physically diseased people, people who would press in on Him all of the time in the subsequent days to come. He knew He faced living with no place to call home, no home to return to when things got really tough. He knew He needed to have a clear head when He had to face down the religious and political establishment that would seek and hunt him down. Occasionally He would steal some more kairos time from His chronos time and go back out into deserted places to do some more praying, getting back in touch again with His Father in heaven.
The forty days of Lent, which the Church offers you and me, is much the same. These forty days of Lent are stolen from our chronos time so that we can get in touch with who we are, what our lives are all about, as well as get more deeply in touch once again with our heavenly Father. Lent is kairos time, a significant time in which we can suspend chronos time for a while.
There’s no fast-forward for our own personal, spiritual development. There’s no “plop, plop – fizz, fizz” Alka-Seltzer for our souls, giving them instant relief. We don’t have spiritual food that we can pop into a microwave oven and serve ourselves as a fast food delicacy. Lent doesn’t last only four days so we can get right back into our rat racing lives.
The big problem, of course, is that we want Church to be that way for us. Some think that the quicker we “get Mass over with” the better. They want Mass to be a sort of “quicker picker upper!” We even want God to give us happiness like that. We want a happy high right now! The big problem is that God respects our choices. He respects our freedom of choice so much that He allows us to suffer the consequences of our own choices, along with the consequences of the choices others around us have made, choices too often made in haste without thought or adequate consideration.
The forty days of Lent are now upon us… or better said, we are in the forty days of Lent. The Church’s Liturgical Year is such that we move from Christmas, to Ash Wednesday, to the Great Three Days of Easter, to Pentecost, repeatedly every year in chronos time so that we can enter into kairos time, a time of meaning and purpose, a time of significance and consequence, periods of time in which eternal time and temporal time briefly intersect.
When we were conceived in our mother’s womb we began to live in eternal time. When we were born we begin to interact with each other in eternal time. When we are baptized we begin a new lifetime living in relationship with God in eternal time. And when we die — time, for us, does not stop, it only changes. It is then that we will see our entire lives in kairos time. It is then that we will realize that we were always living in kairos time.
What are the times of your life? Do you see them only in chronos time, or do you see them in kairos time, God’s kairos time, the time we had in this life filled with eternal meaning and purpose?
May this year’s time of Lent be meaningful and significant for you and me.