Time and space

“I am the gate” seems an unlikely sound bite. Jesus’ description of himself in these words does not appear to go anywhere. Yet that could be because our ears are no longer attuned to rural images and ways of speaking.. His metaphor is perhaps simply a variation on “I am the way” and this way has been unpacked in varying reflections.

Pope Francis

Take, for instance, Pope Francis’ reflection on time and space in his letter on the Joy of the Gospel (##222-5). “A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness invokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, ‘time’ has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure.”

Francis goes on to explain his meaning. We want results here and now. We cannot wait. Politicians, for instance, are often more interested in short term manifestations of power and prestige than in laying foundations for long term goals. They want to fill the “space” now. We want to see results. The pope does not mention him but he might have been thinking of Donald Trump’s reason for tearing up Barack Obama’s environmentally conscious restrictions on drilling for oil in the Arctic. Allowing the drilling will create employment now. Never mind about the impact of a polluted Arctic on climate change. That is for future generations to worry about.

Jesus’ ‘way’ on the other hand is to do what is right now even if it loses votes or cost me my job. Francis gives the example of the wheat and the weeds (Matt 13:24-30). The weeds may compete with the wheat for the nutrients in  the soil but if you tear them out now you may damage the wheat. Be content with an unfinished job now. Wait! A time will come when you can sort out the weeds from the wheat.

But we cannot wait. We cannot tolerate “space”. We want to fill it now. We find it hard to sit by a dying relative. If we can’t “do” anything for them why go at all? It is a ‘waste of time’ we say. Again, can we be in a room quietly, without the TV or our mobile for a while? Or do we have to ‘fill the space’ with noise or chat? Can we make long term plans that show no results for years, in the firm belief that one day others will benefit? I started something but will not live to see the fruits?

Can I plant a tree that takes years to mature or do I choose a fast grower that produces quick results? And, in my interior life, am I prepared to do the inner work that will enable me to live with others in patience, compassion and forgiveness? Or do I want the immediate satisfaction “blowing off steam” whenever I am the slightest bit irritated?

We can laugh at ourselves as we list the ways we want to fill the empty “space” before us and refuse to take the “time” to let our hearts mature. Jesus invites us to enter by the gate of time.

May 7, 2017                                            Easter Sunday 4 A

Acts 2:14,36-41                                      1 Peter 2:20-25                        John 10;1-10

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