Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Time: An Education in the Love of God

ALMOST THREE O'CLOCK (picture courtesy of
"Time is a gift."

That's what they tell us, anyway.

It usually seems like something else. We presume upon it. We take it "for granted." Or else, we feel like we don't have enough of it. We're afraid of losing it. On the other hand, it can seem to stretch out before us like an endless dry desert, or burden us like a terrible weight.

Its hard to say anything good about time that doesn't sound cliche. Of course, many things sound cliche to us because we go around repeating them without trying to understand what they really mean.

Human things take time.

Even that apex of human existing--the free decision--that instantaneous flash of spiritual vitality, usually occurs within a context of time, as the fruit of deliberation, the process of formation that shapes our way of perceiving goodness, and the cultivation of good (or bad) inclinations.

Time signifies the "becoming" of things, and especially the becoming of human persons. We are not born in a state of complete realization. We are born with the vocation to become the persons that God, in His wisdom and love, wills us to be. Time is given to us for the discovery and the fulfillment of that vocation, for the learning and the carrying out of God's plan for me.

Time is necessary for that unique human endeavor and experience that we call education.

But we never learn the whole of God's plan, even as we struggle to cooperate with it and, often, endure it in its many incomprehensible aspects. The "map" of human nature only sketches some parts of the journey, and shows us the boundaries of the road.

This is because the person that is "you" and the person that is "me" are called to a supernatural vocation--we are called to transcend "human nature" as we can conceive it, and become sons and daughters of God. And we are born into a human family that bears the mark of this vocation and at the same time the strange alienation and incapacity to attain it. Yet it is this vocation that corresponds to the very depths of what it means for "me" to be "myself."

And so the Word became flesh. In his humanity the Son used time, to dwell among us, to educate us, and above all to love us with that transforming love that expresses and communicates God's plan for each and all of us. Jesus on the Cross conquers our alienation and separation from God, and makes it possible for each of us to become children of God, which is the real destiny that corresponds to our vocation--the path upon which God continually draws our hearts.

Thus the ultimate answer to the question, "Who am I?" is inseparable from an event that took place in time (but that is not limited by time). My person and my life are defined at every moment by the redeeming and transforming love of Jesus Christ. This is the truth for every person, and it is the great mystery that is woven into God's plan for each of us--the plan that unfolds in the time we are given.

Time is the realm of faith. Time is where we are educated to trust in God, to lose ourselves in order to find Him, and to find ourselves in Him.

Who am I? What gives my life value? What shapes my personal vocation, and places before me the steps I take? What is the meaning of my life, of this present moment? What is the real, concrete foundation of my unshakable dignity as a human person? It is this: Jesus Christ loves me.
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).