Wasted time is not a prized commodity in American society. We are a people ruled by the calendar and the clock. “Time is money,” we say, because time is to be filled with purposeful controlled activity which is to be productive of things that can be bought and sold, recalled, remanufactured, refurbished, and resold.
We have been conditioned that we must be, that we are, in control of time. The last thing the productive American would want to do is to waste time playing around with realities—or surrealities—that don’t enhance the bottom line.
Time is now—and it is running out.
We think we have complete control. Truth being told, we have no control over time at all. The Creator of heaven and earth is described in the Scriptures as the original and superlative maker. Like a journeyman clockmaker, he winds the hands and lets time tick away until time runs out.
The Book of Genesis tells us that God created the heavens and the earth in six days. Is there anybody who believes that God did this in six calendar days, Monday through Saturday and then took Sunday off to watch the Lions game? Who knows? We weren’t there when it happened.
It really is an awesome principle upon which we hinge our hopes. God is omnipresent, is with us all the time, and he is omniscient, that is, he is intimately entwined in the earthly affairs of all that he has created. Read the psalms and see how close God is with creation. It staggers the imagination.
God who is uncreated created life, which is temporal. He fashioned everything out of nothing. This truth of life inspired Saint Peter to write, “There is no time with God: a single day: a thousand years: it is all the same” (2 Pt 3:8). Take a moment and think about that awesome truth of our faith.
Given the time we have, what sort of people should we be? That’s the question that Saint Peter puts to believers in his second epistle. As it is written in the psalm Peter cites: “Our years are but a sigh. Our lifespan is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong. They pass away quickly and then they are gone” (Ps 90:9-10).
Ought we to be discouraged, cynical, and fraught with despair? How can we be? God created time and though it is running out, time is on our side. Peter shares two qualities that should be the hallmark of every Catholic Christian.
First, Peter says that our lives must be marked by holiness. Actions speak louder than words, and life in the spirit is relative to our actions in the flesh, how we live among family members, friends, and those we don’t like. Holiness is an attitude, a point of view, the way we see ourselves relative to the world and how the world views us.
Holiness doesn’t mean walking around with our head in the clouds, disdaining the ways of the world. We are in the world but not of the world, Saint Augustine teaches. According to Peter, Jesus’s closest disciple and his best friend, holiness means to live as Christ lived—for others rather than for ourselves.
Nobody knows how many days God allots us and in his sight all our days pass away until the Lord decides we have had enough. Christ commands us to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). That’s how we are to spend our time. We are called to live the gospel day in and day out until the clock runs out.
Now is that time.
The Second Epistle of Saint Peter is one of the seven New Testament letters referred to as the “Catholic Epistles,” written by certain Apostles to Christian communities worldwide and for all time, which is what the word “catholic” means—universal.
The Apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude composed these ‘universal’ letters to guide the die-hard Christians dying hard through doomsday times for the sake of preserving their faith. We are those same Christians despite that many years have passed since the Resurrection.
That’s why we celebrate the sacred liturgy: to keep alive the memory of Jesus Christ until he returns one day in his glory and then we will be called to give an account of how we have used the time given to us by God.
The difference between Second Peter and the other New Testament letters, Paul’s included, is that Peter’s letter is highly apocalyptic. Peter insists that readers know that the “Day of the Lord” will come when we least expect it, “like a thief in the night,” he says.
Early Christians hoped that the Rapture would happen during their lifetime. Why?—no more human suffering. They welcomed that day, prayed the Lord to open the gates of holiness, when they could enter and give thanks (Ps 118: 19).
Our Christian ancestors prayed to be prepared to receive the promise of the “new heaven and the new earth” (2 Pt 3:13). This was the joy of every Christian’s desire. Would that we might feel the same today. We are those same Christians. Should that not be the hope and desire of all Christians alive and awaiting Second Coming of Christ today? The great and terrible day. To the world and for all time Saint Peter writes:
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a great ‘roar’ and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be found out. (3:10).
Of the four Catholic Epistle writers—James, Peter, John, and Jude—Peter is the only one who predicts the fiery destruction of the world—“hellfire and brimstone,” to be sure. To the early Christians, the Apocalypse was not to be feared but to them was a day of rejoicing.
Two-thousand years later—not even a tick of the clock for the great Clockmaker—Peter’s words urge us to live lives of holiness in preparation for the Day of the Lord set to come at an hour that not even the acutest weatherman or mathematician can predict.
Not ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, or CNN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or Twitter—not even Al Gore. It is not for us to know or to understand the times or the seasons. We are on a need to know basis and as of this moment we don’t know.
The belief and the hope of every Christian should be to see the Day of the Lord and to be prepared to give an account to the Just Judge as to how we used the time that we have been given. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Sometimes wisely, other times foolishly. It’s not our time, it’s God’s time, and he only gives us so much as we need to be prepared for the coming of the Kingdom.
The Day of the Lord draws near; or: maybe it has already come and gone and we missed it because we were too focused on the calendar and the clock. John the Baptist appeared on the banks of the River Jordan; he preached a gospel of repentance, that is, he urged followers to rethink about how they were living and to prepare for the “coming wrath.”
What John meant was that believers should think again about the lives they live in space and time relative to the God of eternity who wants us all to come to the knowledge of the truth—that Jesus Christ is Lord—and to prepare to receive the promised inheritance bequeathed to us by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, that which set captive souls free from purgatory, sent them flying heavenward and there they cheer us on as we struggle to break free of our earthly confines, that which tethers us to the world and makes life appear unbearably linear: one thing after another, day by day, moment by moment until we take our final breath and the clock stops.
By delaying judgment God is providing us time to repent, to rethink how we practice our faith. We decide on how to use the time that God has given us in the brief time we live on earth. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
The second quality of the Christian of which Peter writes in his second epistle is devotion. Our lives must be marked by devotion: to the Scriptures, to the saints, the sacraments, and the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Joyful reverence toward God, “the fear of the Lord,” comes through devotion to the Word and the belief that the Holy Spirit dwells within our hearts through baptism, empowering us to live lives of holiness and devotion, Peter’s twofold formula for salvation.
To pass by the important truths of the faith leaves us stuck in our lives—24/7—and in danger of being unprepared when the Day of the Lord arrives, Here and now. Then and there. God is not confined by time and space. We are. Unless we think again about what it means to obtain salvation, unless we think on it long and hard.
Today marks the Second Week of Advent. Soon the birth of Christ will occur. Will we be ready? Advent is a season of expectation and of waiting. How do we prepare? I recommend spending time in prayerful reading of Peter’s pastoral epistle in its entirety; don’t be content with hearing a snippet, a soundbite, from the letter once every three years in the lectionary.
Rather, revere the pastoral epistles as the living gospel dictated by the Spirit who lives outside of time to the New Testament prophets the Apostles who died waiting to see the glorious return of our Lord. These are the words that were written long ago by those who knew Jesus personally, who hung on every word he uttered as prophecy and gospel. These are the words that deserve our time and attention. Read Saint Peter’s epistle for the discernment of spirits and heed the counsel of John the Baptist’s and rethink salvation.
Take your time. But hurry up. There is no time with God: a single day: a thousand years: it is all the same. On your mark, get set, go.