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17 May 2009

“‘This is my commandment:  love one another as I love you.’”  (John 15:12)     In the name …

I was talking recently with a man who has no television in his home.  He said that it frees up a remarkable amount of time to do other things, chores of course, but also fun and interesting things.  One of his comments to me was that he’s never heard of a person on his death-bed saying he wished he had watched more TV during his life.  Knowing from my own experience, television is often only a distraction.  We use it to waste time too often.  There’s a lot of good stuff on TV, but too many times we click from one station to another because as I have often found and as I have often heard:  “There’s nothing on to watch.”  But that death-bed analogy of his about wasted time got me to thinking.  All time is God-given time, and all of us only have a limited amount of that time.  This means that time is an opportunity to know God and to do for God, which then means that we can also waste time by being too busy for God.  Why do people wonder when Christ feels distant and foreign, why are they surprised when belief seems unreal, when they give no time to God?  I was real close to some friends in college.  I saw them everyday, constantly.  Over the years without keeping up that contact, those friendships have become less important.  People who I looked forward to seeing everyday, I now hardly think about.  When we do the same to Jesus, when we waste our God-given time, why would we think it would be any different? 

This Thursday is Ascension Day.  I think part of its message is also that we can’t waste time.  According to the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus spent 40 days on earth after He resurrected from the grave and before He ascended into the heavens.  None of what the resurrection witnesses tell us of heavenly realities.  They speak with Jesus for 40 days, the same Jesus who died and resurrected, who faced death and defeated it.  And yet not one word is shared about what heaven is like, how eternity feels or what happens when a person dies.  Since the disciples are thoroughly human, since we can imagine what we would ask the resurrected Jesus if we had the chance to sit down with Him, I think it’s safe to assume that these questions were asked, but that Jesus brushed them aside.  What He left with us instead is a commission to appreciate the present, which is all consistent with the words of His ministry, words such as we read in today’s Gospel where Jesus says quite succinctly:  “‘This is my commandment:  love one another as I love you.’”  Eternity is full of time.  This life is not.  So Jesus points our attention here.  There will be time for heaven later.  Now “love one another as I love you.”

The account of the Ascension gives us an image of what it means to hope in heaven, but to work on earth.  The Bible gives a picture of the stunned disciples looking heavenward watching Jesus disappear into the clouds, trying to hold on to Him for as long as they can.  And then suddenly angels startle them by asking why they’re just standing up there on the Mount of Olives.  What’s left unsaid by God’s messengers is that the earthly ministry of Jesus has now been completed.  Jesus has returned to the heavenly glory.  This means that it has now become the time for the disciples to act in His name, in His Spirit, I hope no one misunderstands when I say, and in His place.  The present has become the responsibility of the faithful, of the church.  Think back to this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.  These are some of the earliest stories we have about those men who once stood immobilized on the Mount of Olives.  Peter is preaching to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit descends upon all who are hearing the Word of God.  Everyone, and we can assume Peter too, is surprised that the Holy Spirit is shared at that moment with this Roman soldier and his family.  God, in other words, is active through us in ways that can even surprise us.  This is why any moment can have a sacred importance.

This past week I received one of those chain-letter religious e-mails.  I get a ton of them, and I don’t respond to any of them.  But this one promised me a particular blessing that I would discover at 11:09am the following day.  Now I guarantee that the computer program that generated the chain-letter in the first place would randomly select a new time for Jesus’ blessing if I continued the chain and mailed it to someone new.  The idea that a particular, ordinary moment, however,  is blessed by God seems to have resonated because I received the letter again a couple of days later from another person but with a new time inserted.  The time selection is obviously artificial.  The computer chose 11:09 not God.  What the e-mail accomplishes though is to make us more aware of a given ordinary moment.  A time we would normally pass over can become one where we look for God.  These e-mails are popular because when people stop and are open to God, whatever the time, all of sudden they sense something special about what could have been wasted time.  Whatever time is plugged in is irrelevant.  What’s important is that we allowed ourselves to appreciate the possibility of God in that moment.

I don’t like to dwell on the topic of judgment because I don’t think people can be scared into faith and I don’t think God is scary, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think we’ll all be judged.  And I have to think that we will be judged in part on the opportunities we have wasted.  God has invested a great deal of Himself in this world of ours and we’re the reason why.  This life is our one and only opportunity to act for God, may we not waste it either through doing too little or doing too much so that Jesus is left out.  At some point we all will get to the end of our lives and hopefully we’ll have a chance to look back and take inventory of them.  When we finally get to that moment when little time is left may we not be saddened by how much of that time we have wasted here.  Time is God-given.  It is sacred and full of the nearness and potential of God.  May we take full advantage of it as best we can.  For this we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  (+)

Fr. Randy Calvo


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