This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. As a historian I particularly value the opportunity the church year offers us to consider the creature called Time, receive it as a gift, and begin to live differently.
The notion of receiving time as a gift from God is one of the many things which make us Christians counter-cultural.
Christians believe in a linear timeline in history. There is a beginning and an end, a fulfilment, which is a new beginning. We reject the idea that time is a tyrant that traps us into an endless cycle which must be broken. Rather, we proclaim that time is a precious commodity. As St Jose Maria Escriva says, `Time is our treasure, the “money” with which to buy eternity`.
We are invited by grace to come to acknowledge this mystery and then receive time as a gift, a good, to be given back to God through living our lives in Christ for the sake of the world.
Time and what we do with it truly matter. What are we doing with time? The Feast of Christ the King is the day when we are invited to commemorate His sovereignty. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Christ is the Giver, the Governor and the fulfilment of all time. In Him the whole world is being made new and every end becomes a beginning.
The passing of time is not to be experienced as an enemy, somehow stealing our youth and imposing old age. For those like me who are retired time offers new opportunities. Time offers us a path to holiness and human flourishing. Life is a pilgrimage to Life.
As we move from one Church year to the next, we also move along the timeline of the human life allotted to each one of us. We age. The certainty of our own death is meant to illuminate our life, and the certainty of the end of all time is meant to illuminate the purpose of History and its culmination in Christ.
We are called to bear what Jesus called the `fruit that remains`, a harvest which will accompany us into eternity.
On the night of 11 September 1936 some militiamen took Blessed Joan Roig y Diggle from his home near Barcelona to a cemetery. He was chairman of a Catholic youth organization. When the militiamen pointed their rifles at him he uttered words of forgiveness. The moment they shot, he cried out: `Long live Christ the King! `
We are the ones who, like the Blessed Joan, decide whether we use time for the bearing of good fruit or allow it to become a tyrant who frightens us as we fruitlessly try to resist his inexorable claim. The act of choosing rightly, daily, helps us to develop a disposition; a way of living that involves the proper exercise of our human freedom aided by, and responding to, grace.
When time is perceived as a gift from God and welcomed as an opportunity for bearing the fruits of love and holiness, we learn to receive it in love and perceive it as an arena of choice and an environment for holiness.
We should seize the day of the Feast of Christ the King as a milestone on this last week of the Church year which points to the path along which we become new, beginning now.
The Roman writer Seneca, wrote: `It is not that we have so little time, but that we have wasted so much of it` St. Paul told the Ephesians `Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise making the most of the time. `
The eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon gives a salutary reminder that, if we neglect our unique opportunity, then history becomes `little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind`.
Yet it does sometimes seem that my individual struggle against sin, sorrow and injustice is futile. I cannot check each fault, soothe every sorrow and overcome all injustice. That is when I remind myself that I cannot live without faith, the fellowship of fellow worshippers and the grace of Word and sacrament. Then I resolve to pick up the load again.
As we consider the timeline of our own lives and of history, the redeemer of the cosmos, the God who gives and governs time, invites us on this Feast to re-dedicate ourselves to living differently as though time really does matter.
Thus when we face Him on that final Day, we will do so with our arms full of gifts born in time. These gifts will have paved the way for our life with Him in eternity.