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Time: Tyranny or Opportunity?

11/16/2003 - 5:30 AM PST

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By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

One of the great joys I have as a deacon is the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel at the Sacred Liturgy and breaking it open, as bread for the faithful, in a homily.

Our readings during this time in our liturgical year are all pointing us toward an “end” of time. In fact, the western Church year will end next week, the Thirty Fourth Sunday of the year, and our liturgical journey of faith will culminate with the Feast of Christ the King. On that marvelous Feast we will celebrate the return of the One through whom the entire universe was created; in whom it is being “recreated” through His saving action that we call the “Paschal mystery;’ and by whom it will be completely reconstituted and handed back to the Father at the “end” of all time- which will be the beginning of a timeless new heaven and a new earth when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death …” (Revelations 21:4).

Our faith proclaims that Jesus Christ is the “Alpha”, (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) and the “Omega” (the last letter), the beginning and the end. He is both the Giver and the Governor of time. As we have progressed through these last few weeks together we have been invited by our liturgical readings to reflect on what the tradition refers to as the “last things”, death, judgment, heaven and hell.

Why? In order to more fully understand both faith, ourselves and the purpose and meaning of life.

For the Christian, time has purpose. It is profoundly important. It is a part of a redemptive loving plan of a timeless God who, in His Son, the Timeless One, came into time in order to transform it from within. He now offers us the privilege of participating in His plan for our own personal pilgrimage in this world and as a broader part of His ongoing redemptive plan for the entire cosmos through His Church. Time is the field through which this loving plan precedes and upon which we are invited to make our free choices.

Christians believe in a linear timeline in history. There is a beginning and an end, a fulfillment, which is, in fact, a new beginning. It truly is all heading somewhere, both the history of the world and our own personal history. In our continuing liturgical journey, we will soon celebrate the last Sunday of the Year, the feast of Christ the King, to be immediately followed by the First Sunday of Advent, when we prepare for the birth of Savior.

Human beings will always mark time by significant events. The question is not whether we will mark time but how. What events and what message are we proclaiming in the process of our calendaring time? The Christian understanding of time as having a redemptive purpose is why we Catholic Christians mark time by the great events of the faith in our Church calendar. Like so much else that is contained within the treasury of Catholic faith and life, the Church, who is, (as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council proclaimed) an “expert in humanity” helps us to redeem time and make it more meaningful as we follow the rhythm of the liturgical year we are called to conversion, to change.

Because we believe, we mark time by the great events of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and we move ahead toward His loving return. We mark our Christian culture with events of importance from the ongoing “family”, history of the Church, that family which Jesus birthed from His wounded side on the Cross at Calvary’s hill and which into he breathed His Spirit at Pentecost.

These are profound truths with ever increasing meaning for us as we grow in the life of grace. They are meant to change us and they invite us into a deeper walk with the Lord and with one another. It is up to us to respond to the invitation and to live by faith.

Let me reflect on two (of many) lessons of “father time” in the life of a Christian. For those with hope, those who have been set free by the Lord Jesus Christ, time is NOT A TYRANNY BUT AN OPPORTUNITY to learn in the classroom of faith.

1) Every End is a Beginning

As we move from one Church year to the next, let us not miss this point in our personal lives as well as in the Church year. The certainty of our death is meant to illuminate our life. For that to actually occur, we must truly believe. Death can become, as we move closer to it, a second birth. Francis of Assisi prayed in his most popular prayer “… it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” He referred to death as a “sister” implying that he had a relationship. So too did all the great heroes our Church, the saints.

Do we view death that way?

Is death a catastrophe to be avoided, a source of fear, the end of a terrestrial shopping spree…? Or, as we age, is death becoming a friend, a companion who beckons us on to a more ...

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