I have been dwelling on the old-fashioned word Godspeed lately, just gently ruminating over the notion that God travels with us and keeps us safe and may cause us to have success in some of our earthly endeavours. It is rarely used today and that’s a pity because it encompasses a great deal more, with its hint of providential comfort, than the perfunctory Take care. Thinking about Godspeed got me thinking about God’s time, Kairos, as compared to human time, Chronos, and how these very different concepts of time impact on our lives.
Chronos keeps us all in its tight-fisted and tyrannical thrall. We clock on and off. We run to a timetable, squeezing more in, being caught up in improvised importance and self-appointed urgencies, proving our worth by the hours we put in, the busyness we create. Time cannot pool gently around us, but must be charted and regulated so that we cannot daydream or allow idle imagination to transport us beyond the timezone of here and now and hurry and quick!
The lighting of a candle at St. Francis’, the meditative reveries that move us into a more thoughtful realm, the prayerful focus that pushes temporal preoccupations aside are all God times. This is where mystery and wonderment and solace live, a sacred space where grace and gratitude let God in. These Kairos moments allow us to step into another dimension, to log ourselves off from the enslavements of timetables and time-trials, to grasp the freedom and imagination of true time out.
My husband knows that if I am having quiet time I am reading or writing or thinking, sometimes about things of a soul-stirring nature, sometimes about pragmatic things, sometimes about nothing much at all. Just the mental sifting and sorting and storing that are best done without too much distraction; the casual collecting of my thoughts in the butterfly net of borrowed time. Back on Earth, things trend on Twitter in a permanent present, a 24/7 stranglehold where history is what happened half an hour ago. That lovely old saying – in the fullness of time – with its hint of completion and fruition is so yesterday because time no longer unfolds as it should, but is cruelly wrenched open by immediacy and instant gratification in a world that counts itself lucky for something to go viral.
The theologian Paul Tillich describes Kairos as the moment when the eternal breaks into the temporal. Over Lent and Passion Week we are/will have been able to enter the memorial time of journeying with Jesus as he heads towards his ultimate sacrifice for us. His love – beyond loving in any human understanding of the word – is the gift of salvation that will become our eternal reward. Hopefully, we will have had time to slow down and think about what it means for us to follow our faith. Are we being true to the call to loving God and loving neighbour? I have had the chance to reflect on what I am doing, where I do well and where there is room for improvement and am glad that I can clear a space and time to do this. It is so important to look within and recognise our successes and our sins and to ask for guidance as to how to keep our spiritual selves whole in a world that is insatiable, tempting and time-poor.
We see the fickleness of the crowd – and this could be us – as it changes from jubilation over the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to its baying for blood as it chooses Barabbas for release on Good Friday morning. Crowds can be dangerous beasts and wonderful audiences, but hysteria and contagion can swamp individual conscience and choice. A crowd has no moral centre, especially in moments of heightened emotion.
In the sixth Station of the Cross, it is Veronica, an ordinary woman in this crowd lining the Via Dolorosa, who takes off her veil to wipe Jesus’ bloodied and bruised face. Her tender and momentary action, small though it may have been, was one of one human being reaching out to another in distress. It was her immediate heart-wrenching response to Jesus’ pain. It was and is a sacred moment. Although not directly recorded in the Gospel accounts, we can hope that this is the response that many – of us – would offer to this man, abandoned and alone, stumbling under the weight of the cross.
What must Jesus have felt at this woman’s tender touch?
And what did she see in those eyes, rheumy with blood, sweat and tears?
She saw a man beaten and brutalised, his hair matted by a crown of thorns; a man carrying his burden of a love so great that it transcended the jeers of the crowd and the flogging by Roman centurions.
Veronica’s act shows us that it is the strong thread of compassion that binds us together as a human family; that the touch of kindness can offer consolation in the darkest hours, in the personal Calvary that many endure bravely as they live out the life that has been written for them. As we witness the plights, great and small, of those around us, perhaps we can stand out from the crowd and reach out and touch, as Veronica did, those who suffer under the daily burden of the crosses they have to bear. We can be the individual who is not lost in the crowd; the individual whose moral sense is not swamped by the rantings and rage of others.
As we hurry through our days we can let the divine in by finding God’s speed in our lives, a pace that encourages us to make time to look within, to find the right time for every purpose under heaven. Now is the time to honour and celebrate the joy of the Resurrection. We rise with Jesus.
We have Good News to share.
Rather than all in good time, perhaps we can move gently towards All in God’s time and know that this is the time, especially at this highpoint in the Catholic Church’s liturgical year, for our faith to be nourished and confirmed. As we journey through Easter let us continue to find those Kairos moments that kindle the best in us.