Lent 2017 – Biblical time: Chronos or Kairos?

Canberra-Goulburn's Archbishop Christopher ProwseWhen we think of time we think of hours and minutes, watches and clocks. We think of how time flies or drags.

More recently, to respond to the perception that modern life means busyness and having no time, we use expressions such as time poor or time sensitive.

Lack of sequential time worries us. It usually means we find it difficult to allocate time to pray and reflect and organise our time that truly reflects our deeply felt priorities. Failure to do this prudently places modern people into a dazed state of inattentiveness and unreflectiveness. This deeply worries us. This is time as “chronos” from the Greek word. We derive the word chronology from this.

Then comes biblical time. This is called “Kairos”. It is not so much a matter of a clicking clock, but time as “the favourable time”. It is the opportune or right time. It is a great and supreme moment to refresh ourselves and come back to what really is important in life.

Responding to the grace and invitation of the gentle murmuring of the Holy Spirit, we have a window of opportunity to respond in faith to what has been given. We do not really think about the next meeting or next task – but to the next life – our external life in Jesus! To respond to “Kairos” we don’t need a watch or a clock (quantitive time). We need silence, stillness and simplicity (qualitative time)!

The Church’s liturgical life comes to our rescue as always and offers us the Lenten Season. We need each of the forty days of Lent to enter into “Kairos” (quality) time.

We are given three foundations to properly respond to Lenten Kairos time.

Firstly, there is the priority of prayer. Personal and liturgical prayer is a great medicine to the unfocussed human spirit. It draws us deeply into the contemplative heart of Jesus. When we truly know we are loved and forgiven, we are given Godly energy to rebuild or build the relational bridges between God, humanity and our world. We go back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and promise “to try not to sin again”.

Secondly, there is the need for fasting. This is not to help us meet our dietary promises and reduce weight! It is to help us reduce the “weight” of our inner self-sufficiencies and ego demands. It helps sensitise us to the needs of others.

Thirdly, there is the foundation of almsgiving. “Heart conversion” is to be expressed in “hand generosity” in helping lift the burdens off the needy and peripheral in society. It is practical charity on all levels.

The Church offers all sorts of practical pastoral help to assist us in this Lenten “Kairos” time.

(1) Pope Francis offers us his Lenten Message, for example, to inspire religious instincts towards the good. This year it is the beautiful reflection on the parable of The Rich Man and the Lazarus (Luke 16/19-31). Reflect on what happens to the Rich Man in the parable when he has no time for Kairos moments in his earthly life. Our blindness to sin is exposed in the parable. He sees others as a nuisance rather than a gift. The road to conversion is blocked.

(2) Also, in Australia, the Church offers us the CARITAS way of almsgiving. This Archdiocese was particularly generous to Project Compassion last year. Great! Let’s do even better in 2017.

(3) Then, in the Archdiocese, I have been part of two new DVDs that are offered to you all for your spiritual nourishment. There is: “Welcoming Jesus in Lent” (Year A). It is a reflection on the Gospels of Lent this year. Then, after Lent, there is another DVD resource on Christian Meditation. It is named “Set Pools of Silence in this Thirsty Land”. Both DVDs can be used in groups or on your own. Refer to our website for further detail (www.cg.org.au).

As Lent starts and we move well into 2017 with hope and joy, let us all opt for “Kairos” time and not simply “chronos” time!

Let us pray for each other – especially the battlers amongst us.

“Yes, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess 2/20)

Archbishop Christopher Prowse (Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn)