Homily – January – 2022
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
30 JANUARY 2022
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
AND MASS ONLINE
Readings Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 1 Cor 13:4-13 Gospel Luke 4: 21-30
You always know when the summer holidays are coming to an end as the finals of the Australian Tennis Open are happening and children are preparing to go back to School. I myself have had a few weeks off and returned, in recent days, refreshed.
Over my holiday time I was able to do much walking, particularly in gardens, parks and on beaches. With encouragement, during this terrible Covid pandemic time, for people to have their gatherings outside rather than inside, these places have been very busy indeed! It has been wonderful to see so many families and friends gathering together in open spaces and see visibly how clearly they enjoy each other’s company.
May we never devalue the importance of Married life and Family life and the importance of gathering together for reunions with family and friends. This is particularly the case when God, in the holiday time, gives us a great gift in abundance that we don’t normally have…and that gift is TIME.
We generally use the word “Time” when we talk about minutes, hours and days. This type of time is, “Chronos time.” We derive the English words “Chronology” and “Chronical” from this Greek word “Chronos.”
However, in the Bible it is not only “Chronos time” but another type of time at play. This Biblical time is called “Kairos time.” “Kairos time” is not so much the passing of hours and days in a lineal fashion but more to do with the quality of time that God gives us to encounter Him. “Kairos” is a Greek word meaning “favourable.” So therefore “Kairos time” is God’s chosen time, His favourable time, time that He dwells amongst His people in a very special way. In the Scriptures they often indicate this type of “Kairos” experience with the presence of clouds, light or fire. Another Greek word used in this regard is “Shekhina light.” It is the Divine presence among us.
We have three good examples of this in the Scriptures today.
“Kairos time” in the First Reading occurs with the call of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s calling by God to bring God’s People to conversion is outlined in the First Reading. God says to Jeremiah, in an uncompromising way, “So now brace yourself for action. Stand up and tell them all I command you…They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks.”
So the “favourable time” here is giving them the grace of conversion and repentance. Regrettably, as so often is the case with the Prophets, their “Kairos” voice is not obeyed or even respected. So many prophets of the Old Testament end up with their lives ended or at great risk. Nonetheless, the invitation to turn away from selfishness and come back to the Lord is still given. The people’s rejection of this voice ultimately leads to their exile in Babylon.
The Gospel today from Luke Chapter 4 continues last week’s Gospel where Jesus goes into His neighbourhood Synagogue in Nazareth and takes the text from the Scriptures passage from Isaiah which becomes His program for life, “Setting the prisoners free.”
The “Kairos” moment here is that God’s favourable time has arrived. God’s election of His People is not only for the House of Israel but for everybody.
His friends in the neighbourhood are delighted with the articulation of Jesus and His preaching. Patronisingly, however, they mutter how can this happen given the fact that Jesus’ father is just a carpenter.
Jesus goes on, however, and says that this universalisation of the message of Salvation has been foreshadowed in the past and has never been properly received by the People of God. He refers to the prophet Elijah and notes that it is really only the pagan widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town, who showed an understanding of this. He also mentions the prophet Elisha and the outsider, the Syrian, Naaman, as an example of the Pagans responding more than the Chosen People!
The response to Jesus’ challenging declaration of this “Kairos” moment is responded to very negatively. The Scripture of today’s Gospel says, “When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged…intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.”
This rejection of God’s favourable time of universal election and the destructive response of God’s People is a foreshadowing of Christ’s ultimate Death on the Calvary Cross.
In the Second Reading today we also hear that it is the favourable “Kairos time” to expand our minds and hearts to love one another as Jesus loves us. We have here a summary of St Paul’s great definition of love in this passage. This love of not only Christians but it has universal acclaim. Here the “Kairos” love of Jesus is “patient…kind…never jealous…never boastful or conceited…never rude or selfish…does not take offence…is not resentful…ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.”
So “Kairos time” is a time of great invitation to conversion and it is a grace which is often misunderstood of rejected. May that not happen to us as we begin now 2022. There will be great challenges as the year unfolds but let us see these challenges as “Kairos” moments and not just the passing of time in an incidental way – the way of “Chronos time.”
Let us be “Kairos people in a Chronos world.” Let us be reflective and deep in our responses in a real qualitative way (Kairos) and not superficial or fleeting in a quantitative way (Chronos).
To understand this more fully may I conclude with a little story that may be very familiar to you. It concerns three people working in a rock quarry. When asked what they were doing one worker said he was, “breaking rocks and stones”, and another said he was, “earning a living”, but a third person when asked what he was doing responded, “I am building a Cathedral.”
No prizes for which one was the “Kairos” response and which two were the “Chronos” responses! The “Kairos” response is the man who said he was, “building a Cathedral.” Clearly he saw his work here as making a real contribution to life and in some shape or form, even remotely, building something that would give real dignity and transcendence to humanity in this contribution.
May I conclude with a little expression that you may want to memorise to help us bring all these thoughts of different types of time together.
It comes from the 13th Century well known St Francis of Assisi, the Italian Mystic. He is alleged to have said, “Do few things, but do them well. Take your time go slowly!” So let’s try and go slowly and take our time. Let’s be “Kairos people” in 2022.