Monday, November 17, 2014

The Appointed Time

(Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on 17 November 2014 at the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence in Providence, R.I.; See Revelation 1:1-2:5)

There is something that can—and often will—happen to every seminarian in his formation and preparation for priesthood.  It is certainly something that can happen in the life of the Catholic priest.  St. John the Evangelist, in the beginning of the Book of Revelation this morning, indicates that it has happened in the Church of Ephesus and Jesus Christ has commissioned him to address it without delay.

In that prophetic and apocalyptic book written to the early Church, and to us, the Lord commends the Ephesians for their work, and especially their endurance in the face of trials.  They have refused to tolerate “the wicked” and have exposed the imposters claiming to be Apostles (Revelation 2:2).   More than that, however, they have suffered for the Gospel and the name of Jesus Christ.  He commends them for these outstanding marks of discipleship.

But there is something else that Christ points out to the Church in Ephesus, something that He holds against them that is unacceptable and potentially harmful.  He says: You have lost the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4).

They have lost that initial fervor, that fire and passion for Jesus Christ and the Gospel that had elevated the Church in Ephesus to the foremost place in Asia Minor.  These are the people who spread the message of salvation like wildfire across that region.   Their love for God was vivacious.   It was alive.  Contagious. 

Now it is fading away.

It can, and often does, happen that our initial fervor and passion for following Jesus Christ diminishes and gets reduced over time.  We can become so familiar with what is sacred, so acquainted with our regular routine, that we are no longer as driven as we once were to draw close to God in intimacy and share His message of salvation with conviction and joy.

St. John the Evangelist reminds us all this morning that Jesus Christ will not tolerate the loss of our first love.  No amount of work or endurance will substitute for diminished spiritual intimacy.  Christ wants it back.  In fact, He provides the solution and gives us the answer to the problem of lost spiritual fervor in our First Reading. 

The answer is time.

There are two different words in the Greek language for time.  The first is chronos, where we get the concept of chronological time.  The seconds that tick away on a watch or clock; the hours that accumulate throughout the day; the days that march along the calendar throughout the year; these are examples of chronos.  We can and should manage chronos, use it wisely to glorify God and serve Him well. 

But chronos is not the word for “time” that St. John uses in our First Reading this morning.  The word he uses in kairos, and it is different from chronos.  It is translated in our reading this morning as “the appointed time.”  St. Paul calls it “the acceptable time” (2 Corinthians 6:2).  It can be translated as the “opportune moment.”  It is God’s time. 

Kairos, according to St. Paul, is the time of salvation.  St. John this morning gives it as the very reason for this present communication to the Church in Ephesus, that “the appointed time is near” (Revelation 1:3).  We cannot manage or manufacture kairos, but God can.  Moreover, He does not provide those opportune moments in a fleeting way.   No, He is, instead, constantly intervening in time and offering those moments of grace and mercy that can reignite the fire within us and lead us back, even more deeply, into that first love.

He does that preeminently here in the Eucharist, on this altar.  In the Liturgy, when we draw close and worship God and receive His body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, He draws us back into intimacy with Himself.  When we spend hours before God in prayer, before the tabernacle or exposed here on the altar, we allow God to work in our lives to revive our initial fervor and faith. 

It happens when we become immersed in the Sacred Scriptures, and drink deeply from the Word of God as a life-giving spring.  We long to know and understand the words of God in the Scriptures that have the power to animate our spiritual lives and set out hearts on fire.  We want to know what God is saying: to us personally; to our Church; to those we are called to serve; to those who have neither known Him nor yet loved Him, but who will come to know Him through us.

God’s opportune time comes to us in those moments that we offer forgiveness, maybe even for offenses that no one has asked forgiveness for.  It happens when was seek forgiveness, and strive to be more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  The appointed times throughout the day that God calls us to serve and to work for His glory and the building up of His kingdom, these are the moments and the times that God uses to reignite the passion and the fire that drove us to this place and initiated our response to the call of God to begin with.

“You have lost the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). 

How are we responding, in our daily lives, to the moments that God constantly provides, reigniting the fire and the flame of His love within us?  For the appointed time is near (Revelation 1:3), and the moment for enkindling that fire within is now.