Time is a funny thing. The older I get, the more I feel like I never have enough of it and I find that if I’m not careful, I hoard it and protect it and allow it to dictate every single decision I make. I don’t have enough time. That seems like such a waste of time. How much time will that take?
Who can relate?
I blame western society for my obsession with time. We’re told we only have 24 hours in a day and that we need to make them count, and so my instinct is always to ration my time like it’s a precious commodity. Even as a middle-schooler, I would write out a schedule and plan out my day — sometimes to the minute. (I realize I may have a complex.) It was like I was trying to squeeze every last minute out of my day.
When I decided to sign up for JustFaith this past Fall, it went against every grain of my being to sign up for something that met for 24 weekly sessions from September to May, all in the middle of bedtime when I have 2 kids under the age of 5. It was crazy for me to even consider, and the fact that I still reached out to show my interest (JustFaith hadn’t even been announced yet at my parish), I can’t help but believe that even back then, the Holy Spirit was stirring, (probably more accurately, waving furiously at me to get my attention).
And so I signed up. The first session took place in late September and can I tell you? We’re only halfway through, and it’s been life-changing. It’s made me rethink my outlook on time and my whole understanding of community — not to mention all the aspects of Catholic social teaching that we’ve just begun to dig into. Paradigms have shifted and we’ve just reached halftime. (More on that in a future post.)
The thing is, whenever anyone brings up JustFaith, one of the first things they mention is how time-intensive it is. And it is — necessarily so. The topics covered throughout the course are heavy, ranging from hunger and poverty to racism and violence. Time is needed to prepare our hearts and minds for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. But if I had let any possibility of signing up end there — at the thought of adding just one more thing to my schedule, I would have missed out on all that God had — and still has — in store for me.
Kairos: Renegotiating My Understanding of Time
Let’s be honest. My obsession with time and making sure my schedule runs as efficiently as possible is borderline idolatry. If it’s what dictates my decision-making, and it’s the first thing and only thing I consider when making choices for my life, then I’ve made it a god without even knowing it.
There’s a Greek concept that’s helped transform my understanding of time, and it’s called kairos. Kairos (versus chronos or chronological time) is defined as “a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action: the opportune and decisive moment” (source).
In the New Testament, kairos refers to “those moments of spiritual significance…the circumstances in an individual’s or community’s life that are transitional, significant moments in the faith journey. All time was seen in relationship to Jesus Christ” (Word and Worship Workbook for Year A, Mary Birmingham 35-35). When you read Mark 1:15 in Greek, the “time of fulfillment” is more accurately translated as the kairos of fulfillment.”
For the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the words of Psalm 119:126 signal the beginning of the Divine Liturgy: kairoz tou poihsai tw kuriw/ kairos tou poiesai to kurio, which translates to “It is time (kairos) for the Lord to act” (source).
When we celebrate the liturgy, we are invited to step out of chronos and enter into kairos. I like to think of it as a sacred time out of time, where the regular rules of time no longer apply. We don’t simply recall the events of our salvation history, the Paschal mystery of Christ is made present in the celebration of the Eucharist. Even the word “today” (read: kairos in Greek) takes on a different meaning in the context of the liturgy:
The liturgy, especially in the great feasts, affirms that Christ is born today, he is risen today, he ascended to Heaven today. It is not just a bright idea: Jesus himself said: “today salvation has come to this house,” “today you will be with me in Paradise.” With Jesus, Son of God, man’s time is “today,” is present. It is the Holy Spirit that does this, with his irruption in time and space. In the Holy Land, the liturgy also adds the adverb of place: “here,” hic. The Spirit of the Risen Jesus makes man enter the “now” of God which came in Christ and that goes across the cosmos and history…. (CCC, 1165). source
For Such a Time As This
Experiences like JustFaith — ones that require sacrifice and commitment — always require a leap of faith. I’m sure anyone who’s reading this can relate to the juggle of responsibilities that just comes with being a functioning human being. We have the obligations of the day-to-day and we have the dreams and aspirations that are necessary for anyone to thrive. Taken all together, how can anyone ever figure out how to fit it all in?
And yet, when we stay in this mindset, we forget that kairos — God’s timing — isn’t bound by the limits of our “very important schedule.” It is when we seek God first that we are able to see things in a different light, that we are given insight that isn’t available to us when we simply focus on the schedule.
For me, JustFaith happened because of God’s timing. I resisted all the way up until the first session. I was convinced that it was too much for me, and yet I still showed up because I still kept myself open to the possibility that this was something God was calling me to do this year.
As 2018 unfolds, what do you hear God calling you to? My prayer is that we enter into this new year with open hearts and open minds, so that we are always prepared to answer. May we remember the story of Esther, as we discern all the ways and circumstances in which God has placed us in the right place and right time for him to act:
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14, NIV)