Sunday Homily 1/24/2021- Fr. Luke Uebler
“I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out… for the world in its present forms are passing away.” Words from our 2nd reading today from the 7th chapter of St. Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
What am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie? Now. Whatever you’re looking at now, is happening now. Well, what happened to then? We just passed it? When? Just now. Well, go back to then. We can’t. Why not? We already passed it. When will then be now? Soon. Normally when we think of time, it’s chronological time, from the Greek word Kronos, a sort of moving time, a time with a past, a present, and a future, where things happen according to a schedule, when then, soon becomes now. The world operates on Kronos time. I used to wear a watch to help me keep track of time and when things were happening. Perhaps, many of us did. Now, when we are curious about the time, we pull out our cell phones. But that isn’t what stopped me from wearing a watch. I went on a retreat during high school. And one of the things the retreat leaders did to help us get away from the world and what was going on in society was to take away our watches. While we were on retreat, we weren’t supposed to worry about what was going on at home or at school, or what time something was supposed to happen. The idea is that we were supposed to live in the moment. That didn’t stop us from asking, “what time is it?” To which we heard the response from the retreat leaders, “It’s God’s time.”
It’s God’s time. The retreat was appropriately named the Kairos retreat, Kairos being a fancy Greek word used in the Bible and in theology to denote the right time, a time of significance, God’s time. Kairos time, God’s time, is something more timeless. As opposed to Kronos time, which is forever moving, there is a sense in Kairos time, that I could live in this moment forever, when the rest of the world stood still. Maybe you experienced a time like that with your first kiss, or perhaps when you held your newborn baby for the first time. Man, I could live in this moment forever. Maybe it was after some great accomplishment when everything was quiet and you could bask in that moment of victory, taking it all in. Maybe you brushed up against Kairos time after listening to a powerful piece of music or contemplating nature or had a significant experience of prayer. I had a Kairos moment, when I was walking down the school hallway at Queen of Heaven, and a couple of our second graders were putting things away in their backpacks. They then proceeded to skip on down the hallway ahead of me to join the rest of their class in the classroom. I don’t know if it’s against the rules to go skipping merrily down the hallway when it’s safer and more dignified to walk, but I thought to myself: they are happy. This is how it should be. This is what kids should be doing. All is right in the world – praise God! I hope that you have several Kairos moments, significant timeless moments during your lifetime.
We are still celebrating Christmas, as it were, at St. Mary’s, celebrating the fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And part of the reality of God dwelling with us in our world means that God’s time has broken into our time. Jesus stands on the shores of Galilee in our Gospel today, proclaiming “The Kingdom of God is at hand. This is the time of fulfillment” – Kairos time, Significant time, God’s time. At every ordinary moment, we stand on the edge of something extraordinary because the Kingdom of God is in our midst, and it touches everything.
Imagine the dynamics of a first love. Isn’t it interesting how every seemingly ordinary thing becomes a reminder of that person? When you are with them you are intoxicated with joy, like you can’t breathe. You think of them during the day and dream about them at night. You call from work because you miss them. Every activity reminds you of a moment shared together, even the carrots in your soup form a smile that reminds you of their countenance. Everything you do is for that person and it gives your life new purpose and meaning as everything points to them. It is the same with the Kingdom of God. It touches everything. All of time itself becomes swallowed up in God’s time – nothing is ordinary anymore; every moment carries with it a new significance and points to the reign of God and the relationship of love that we are called into.
When St. Paul says: “From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully,” he is not holding marriage or material possessions or emotions in contempt necessarily. Really, what he is trying to do is take our watches away. He doesn’t want us to be concerned about things according to Kronos time. He is trying to get us to live in God’s time and thus free us from the anxiety of passing things and recognize God’s presence in everything and every moment. That is what happened when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John. Everything about their lives was transformed. What they were doing no longer held priority for them. Their lives as fishermen was imbued with a new purpose as they became fishers of men, as they went about making disciples, inviting them into God’s Kingdom too. The same is true of the people of Nineveh in the first reading. The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, and not only were they the mortal enemies of Israel, but they had a reputation as a brutal city, full of wickedness. When Jonah came preaching, they realized their need to re-prioritize their way of life. As God’s time broke into theirs, all people great and small participated in the penance. Perhaps, we have some repenting to do of our own to let the reality of God’s grace sink in.
During that Kairos retreat, we lost track of time. It didn’t matter that Western New York was trapped in an October Storm – true story. We were in God’s time, and it was a significant time for me, where I learned again, anew, how much God loved me in every aspect of my life. I have never since put a watch back on. It has served as a constant reminder for me, for whenever I am tempted to ask, “what time is it?” and I look down at my wrist, I am reminded that, as St. Paul says in today’s reading, “that time is running out, that this world is passing away,” that I am living in God’s time, which is timeless, eternal, extraordinary, significant. We are in now, now. This is the time of fulfillment: God’s Kingdom is forever and always at hand. So repent and believe in the Gospel, for God’s time has broken into ours and it transforms every aspect of our lives.