As we approach the end of another liturgical year, we continue reading St. Paul’s discussion of the final coming of the Lord. In the passage for today he links two Greek words for time, “chronos” and “Kairos.” The first word, “chronos,” describes successive, measured time. We measure most of the moments of our day in this way. We know the times that our meals are served, the time of community prayer, the time for our daily liturgy, and the time for “Wheel of Fortune” each evening. The second word, “Kairos,” refers to a decisive moment in time. The translators of the Scriptures have rendered these two words as “times” and “seasons” in The Lectionary for Sunday Mass. “Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you.” St. Paul is telling the Thessalonians and us that there is nothing about either kind of time that requires explanation. Through our faith, we all understand that as time passes, we get closer and closer to the “Day of the Lord.”
Several ancient prophets of Israel spoke about this mysterious day. It was considered the day of fulfillment. It represented the time when the justice of God would be revealed on the earth, so it was thought to be a day of rejoicing and vindication for the righteous but a day of reproof and lamentation for the wicked.
Almost 2,000 years have passed since St. Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians, and you and I find ourselves still waiting for the Day of the Lord. Some have simply dismissed the notion that Jesus will return. However, no one can dismiss the fact that for each one of us, time will run out. We shall all die at some time or another. Because no one can refute this notion, the liturgy seems to concentrate our thoughts upon our individual passing from this life during the last month of the liturgical year. November is given over to prayers for those who have died, reminding all of us that one day we will need those prayers.
St. Paul employs two powerful metaphors to describe the Day of the Lord: a thief in the night and a woman falling into labor. I would like to emphasize the first of these two metaphors. While the world might be proclaiming “peace and security,” St. Paul warns us that this is a dangerous kind of thinking. First of all, like a thief in the night, it cannot be scheduled. It will come upon us when we least expect it. The Day of the Lord is a kairotic moment, a decisive moment totally out of our control. Secondly, it may be that various events are leading up to this moment, but because of its kairotic nature we may not be able to recognize those events. It is as if we are walking in darkness. Like a thief in the night, it comes upon us unexpected and unrecognized.
However, St. Paul reminds us that we are not children of darkness; we are the children of the Light. We received that light on the day of our baptism. Though the Day of the Lord will be unexpected, we will be ready if we keep the light of faith burning in our lives. As I was dwelling upon these readings yesterday, I was reminded of a childhood game that we played almost every summer evening until the street lights came on. One of us would cover our eyes and count to one hundred while the rest scattered and hid themselves. Upon reaching 100, we would hear a shout, “Ready or not, here I come.” He would then begin ferreting out the hiding places of the other participants in the game. The first one to be found would then be chosen to be the next seeker.
The last Sundays of the liturgical year are akin to that youngster shouting out, “Ready or not, here I come.” Jesus has promised us a day of vindication, a day of great rejoicing on which justice will be revealed. At times, it may seem as if justice and peace have found a very good hiding places. We look high and low for them, but they seem to elude discovery. However, God has promised that we shall not be disappointed. One day Jesus will return bringing with him that for which we yearn. This is cause for celebration.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator