Celebrating Lent in God’s time

Editor’s note: The COVID-19 pandemic has made us reflect on what is most important in life. During Lent, The Compass offers an eight-part Lenten series of reflections on how readers can take their experiences from 2020 and apply them to Lent and Easter 2021.

There are two perceptions of time that are incredibly relevant to us as Christians. The first is one we are most accustomed to: chronos. Chronos is a concept of time that moves in sequential order. Scripturally, we see an example of chronos in one of the two creation accounts in Gn 1:1-5. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form or shape. … Then God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good. … God then separated the light from the darkness. Evening came, and morning followed — the first day.”

Our lives flow from one day to the next. We mark our days by the events of our lives and patterns form. However, sometimes there are interruptions to those patterns. These can be welcome interruptions or disruptive events in our lives that change us one way or the other. 

This brings us to the second understanding of time: kairos. Kairos is a reality of time that typically moves nonsequentially. It may seem to be totally random, arbitrary, disruptive and sometimes unwelcome. Yet, it also has a tendency to form and transform our understanding of reality, our being and our relationships. Currently, we are experiencing an encounter of kairos

Beginning in the middle of March 2020, our lives drastically changed. As our churches, schools, restaurants and bars closed to the public, it seemed like time began to stand still. Conversely, for me, as someone transitioning into a new position in the diocese — even though the world was shutting down — it seemed like someone opened a firehose of new questions and challenges. We all began to think about how we would continue to accompany the faithful in our journey through Lent, a journey that would hopefully lead to the joy of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday — and to do so safely.

As we all reflect on the events and challenges in the past year, and have now entered another season of Lent in a pandemic world, we continue to sift through the darkness that surrounds us to find the light. We continue in a world where elements of touch, close proximity and freedom to breathe is different than ever before. We have, both literally and figuratively, been closed in on ourselves.

As we persist in isolation, sometimes it may feel like the walls are closing in around us. Some of us have been forced to wrestle with demons that we thought we had long defeated, but that slithered their way back into our lives. Addiction, depression, suicidal thoughts have all crept into the minds of many, especially as some experience a sense of loneliness they have never had to address before. In essence, we may at times feel like we have been drawn into a tomb of despair that we have not yet been able to rise from, even though there was indeed an Easter in 2020. 

In the midst of all of this darkness and despair, like the appearance of the Easter light, we will soon celebrate. As the paschal candle expels the darkness during the Easter Vigil, we will hear the words of the prophet Ezekiel. “Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them. … I will put my spirit in you that you may live. … I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord.” 

This is a bold statement, but we know it to be true. Our whole faith rides on this promise. Though we may still be in the tomb, like Lazurus, we too will be called to “come out!” 

We are indeed in kairos time — God’s time. Through the disruptions of our lives, Christ has been with us all along. He has been helping us all to focus more intently on the important elements of life. He has made us all reevaluate our lives, our church, our relationships to more intentionally be drawn further into his love and mercy.

Though we have all experienced hardship, sorrow and loss during this seemingly “long Lent,” we are assured that God will indeed “open our graves and have [us] rise from them.” God has promised and he will do it. Though it may not be on our timeline, it will be done in his time, this we believe. Amen.

Johnson is director of Divine Worship and Master of Ceremonies for the Diocese of Green Bay.

Here are links to earlier columns.