The time is short!
We Christians know how to live with this sense of time that is near. We know that with the first coming of Christ, the sand clock is turned around, and the sand is flowing out with no chance to go back. Every day the second coming of Christ is drawing near. Every day, every minute may be the moment of his second coming. Only our heavenly Father knows the day and the hour of this event, but we live with this sense that the time is near and the remaining time is short.
But what is the meaning of this shortness or brevity of time? The time was short for Paul and the Corinthians, whom he addressed with his instructions for different family situations. The time was short also for the listeners of Christ’s appeals for repentance and faith in the Good news: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mar 1:15 NRS) The fulfillment of time demands an urgent decision – an entire transfiguration of life and faith in the Son of God who became flesh. The time was short also for the people in Nineveh – they had only 40 days to turn from their evil ways.
When we speak about the brevity of time, we almost always think about the upcoming end of history; we think about the end of times.
The end of time is not out of Paul’s concerns in his first letter to Corinthians. In the light of the definitive end of history, even the temporary disasters and crises gain a different meaning. The world with its political, social, cultural, and economic structures is constantly changing because “the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31 NRS)
However, the time is short in a very direct sense for every one of us. Speaking about the end of times, we should not forget that this includes the end of the time of our earthly life. Eschatology always include personal eschatology – mine and yours. No just the world is fleeting but also I am fleeting. My present form is passing away. I feel that the time is slipping away from my hands. It is not possible to turn it back. I feel that in its mad rush I lose myself and when I find myself again, I am not longer the same. I am different. In my personal eschatology the end is unknown – I can live to a ripe old age, but I can pass away early. But since the time is short, nothing is neither early nor late.
When we speak about the shortness of time we don’t speak simply about numbers. We don’t speak about the remaining minutes, hours, days and years of our lives. The shortness of time, provoking a continual expectation, a sustained effort to be found “awake”, is rather a qualitative category. The numbers – minutes, hours, days and years – are still important but the content of the time is more important. Its fullness of meaning is more important. For us, Christians, this fullness of meaning is defined by our encounters with Jesus Christ, by our life with him, by his words, by his presence at his table.
Time is short, because with the coming of Christ it is filled with the presence of God who became one of us, to redeem us and to redeem the time from his vanity. The time is short because we need to redeem with God’s help every second, minute, hour, day and year of our own lives and to transform them – again with God’s help – into a time of salvation, full with meaning. When the time is full with meaning that way, it naturally shortens, shrinks, and assembles itself. Then every minute is important because it is a new opportunity for us to be with God and to go further in that blessed relationship. The time filled with God is a qualitative category for us and all the numbers connected with the time are not so burdening for us. We enjoy what time contains; we enjoy its meaning which goes beyond the time limitations and opens the gates of the kingdom of God that is near and inside us.
The time was short for the apostles of Christ because they have seen with their own eyes, have looked at and touched with their own hands the word of life (see 1John 1:1 NRS). The time was short for Paul not because his mission was so demanding in terms of efforts, gifts and time. The time was short for him because his definition of life was simple: “For to me, living is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21 NRS). All other things had not the same significance for him. They were even a rubbish for him in order that he may gain Christ (3:8). Christ was the meaning-giver of everything. The encounters with Christ, the living with him made the time extremely valuable for Paul, made it short, deprived of its vanity, full with meaning. Without this encounter we remain captives of the vanity, uncertainty and transience.
The time is fulfilled already and God entered our world in a very radical way: he became man and conquered death. The seeds of the new life are already sown, they are sprouting, and growing but the time of harvest is still ahead. The miracle of new life is happening right now. The time of waiting is not simply a certain numbers of days and months. It is a time of transfiguration. Yes, the time is necessary but the most important thing is what is happening – the seed dies to bear much fruit.
The time is short also for us if it is filled with Christ: it will be like that if we open the gate of our hearts, if we seat at his table, if we allow him to take the first place in our lives. That does not mean that we don’t care whether we’re married or not, whether we have children or not, whether we have friends or not and what kind of profession we have. Quite the contrary, all this will have its real significance and meaning for us because for to us living will be Christ. It is not the escape from this world that redeems time and makes it rich with meaning but its transfiguration. There is no doubt, the present state of this world will pass but we expect the renewal of everything. That is why we pray with diligence: Come, Lord Jesus! Such is the prayer of those for whom the time is “short” because the new life is sown and harvest is near. For them, it is not essential to know the day and the hour. For them, it is enough that their heavenly Father knows.
Thanks be to God!