Where does the time go?

Tom Bartolomeo
1st Sunday Advent A 2013
Isaiah 2: 1-5; Psalm 122;
Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44
Reproduced with Permission

I think we all innately know there is something wondrous about time. We heard from the prophet Isaiah say, "In days to come God may instruct us in his ways" ( Isaiah 2 ff ) and Saint Paul say, "You know the time; it is the hour now for you to wake from sleep. For our salvation is advanced, the day is at hand" ( Romans 13: 11-14 ) and, finally, Jesus say, "you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect the Son of Man will come." ( Matthew 24: 37-44 ). [Italics mine] I don't think Jesus could make it more emphatic if not clear, "as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man . . . two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, and one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come." In case you missed the implication: the ones who "will be taken" will be saved, the other two will be lost.

I know some will think, Well, that may all be true. Chances are I will be dead and buried when it all happens. What difference will it make? All the difference in the world. When we are woken from the dead we will be the same people we were at the moment of our death resurrected for the final judgement. There will be no time for a "do-over". And believe me, the evil one will be waiting there at the last moment for his final chance to make us one of his disciples. It is his consuming ambition just as it is Christ's abiding desire. There is no denying we are all aging, essentially a process of dying. Even the healthiest person eventually dies. Absent disease or violence the human body like everything else in this world, animate or inanimate, will simply wear out in time. Although we have no direct experience with anything forever, we yearn for and pray for life everlasting which only God could put in our psyches. Must be it has a purpose, ignore it if we will.

It is no coincidence that the mysterious notion of time which we tend to take for granted. Like everything else outside our inner thoughts and desires we have no real control over other things and people. It reminds me of the Rogers and Hart song, "I didn't know what time it was until I met you." A romantic musing meaning what? Perhaps self-absorbed in other things like what we are going to do after mass. Forget this day's readings and go shopping for Christmas gifts? Rather ironic, don't we think? At a time when Jesus entered this world in order to die to this world and rise to another world without end for our sake. The same Jesus who had much to say about wasting time. The next time we read one of the gospels - we do do that? - you often hear the word "when" and we should ask ourselves, How am I in step in time with Jesus? There are other instances in the gospels when Jesus spoke directly about our understanding of time. When Jesus told his Apostles on the night of his arrest, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear". . . . He went on to say: "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." At this, some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." How well do we understand "a little while" or 'a long while' for that matter. Sometimes about some experience we had years ago, we 1 say, "it seems like yesterday" or sometimes about something more immediate, "I didn't know what time it was"? And then we often say, "we have all the time in the world". Really. Jesus understood his Apostle's confusion when he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. ( John 16: 121-21 ). That was a blessed time for the woman, her pain and anguish giving birth to joy. Then we are told that after praying to the Father Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane when he was arrested and on the following day was crucified. We know the Apostles at that time where unprepared for Jesus' demise and they fled.

Years later, having grown older and wiser Jesus' Apostle Peter understood and said, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare." ( 2 Peter 3: 8-10). If ever we have lost our place of time in the world it is - now. Perhaps it can be re-discovered - now. The holy season of Advent, the first coming of Christ, is now. It is a time we begin to prepare once more for Jesus' second and final coming of which we know neither the time or the hour. For the world this time it is just one big secular holiday from Thanksgiving - no coincidence that the Greek word for Thanksgiving is "Eucharist"- to Christmas and New Year's Day when the world resets its calendar. Our calendar begins today, preparations for the birth of our Savior who is determined to die in order to ransom us from this world and teach us how to bear our crosses. "Oh come, Oh come Emanuel and ransom captive Israel." This is our calender. Has been for two millennia and the only calendar for eternity we have.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

"Mourns in lonely exile here." Mean that truly then we can say, "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee Oh Israel! " Let us make good use of our time.