Open yourself up to ‘God’s time’

By Linda Zahorik | February 27, 2014

How much time do you spend in church on a Sunday? A usual response is “Oh about 45 minutes to an hour.”  Those who have liturgical responsibilities may say, “I’ll be there for about 90 minutes,” and those who are priests or parish leaders can say, “Well that would be all morning and then some.”

Our life is measured by time, however, the Gospel for this weekend challenges us to be timeless. The celebration of liturgy provides us with the opportunity, even the necessity, to leave mortal time at the door. Mortal time is known as chronos or chronological time — that which is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks … millennia. Chronological time also is where one worries “… about your life, what you will eat or drink, your body, what you will wear.”

The beauty of sacred liturgy is that it exists in a different time frame. The church calls it kairos time “God’s time” —  holy internal time, where time stops. “God’s time” is measured in the moment, rather than by the clock.

Often attending Mass on Sunday is something we refer to as our “obligation.” When we adopt that attitude, we are approaching the liturgy in “mortal time.” As the Gospel tells us, living in mortal time can result in us being a stress-ridden wreck.

We know that there are things in mortal time that cannot be hurried along. A baby will be born when it will. Food needs a certain amount of time to be cooked. A broken bone takes weeks to mend.

Yet to “hurry along” is what many of us expect from the liturgy. We want to compress the celebration into 20 minutes. After one verse of a song, we are closing the hymnal ready to move on. A sprinkling rite has us thinking “how much time is this adding?” 

So then, how can we, in our celebration of the liturgy, open ourselves to “God’s time.” Perhaps a good place to start is in our arrival. Rather than rushing in at the five-minute warning, one could come to church 10-15 minutes early. This would give the opportunity to greet and reach out to fellow parishioners. It would also allow some quiet time to pray and reflect before Mass begins. Give yourself to the words, the music, the pauses. Banish from your mind thoughts of “Let’s move this along today Father, I’ve got a game to watch, or shopping to do.” Avoid glancing at your watch during the homily.

If it is not your usual procedure, try staying for the entire Mass. The Communion procession was never intended to go forward for the reception of the sacrament, followed by an exit at the nearest door. Some really good things still occur in the liturgy after Communion! Instead of participating in a rousing game of bumper cars in the parking lot … linger! Enjoy the coffee and doughnuts. Spend some time in quiet prayer. Perhaps you might even assist the ushers as they tidy the pews for the next Mass.

There is no escaping mortal time. We need to work, eat, rest and so on. But too often we forget our deeper needs. We need to think, pray, breathe, experience the divine, do nothing, except be present to the moment. Come to liturgy as one of the “wild flowers” ready for the Lord to clothe you. Let us borrow a beautiful thought from the Eastern Catholic Churches, where before the liturgy begins, the deacon exclaims to the priest, “Kairos tou poiesai to Kyrio,” “It is time [kairos] for the Lord to act.” Let us emerse ourselves in “God’s time.”

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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