First Sunday of Lent by Abbot Stan

Homily of 18 February 2018

Genesis 9: 8 – 15; I Peter 3: 18 – 22; Mark 1: 12 – 15

The Scriptures cry out to us, my brothers and sisters, the Scriptures cry out: The time is fulfilled. Repent. Believe.

Where do we hear this voice of the Lord calling to us today? Where does the call to repentance resound in our hearts? How are we being asked to believe anew in the Good News?

These are not academic questions. These are not psychological questions. There is a time and a place for such exercises. But the liturgy happens not in chronos time, the time measured by the standards of this world – but it leads us into kairos time, the privileged place where we are in direct communion with the God who made us.

The Greek word chronos, which means ‘time,’ is used for the time when we eat and when we sleep. Chronos time is the time for doing, for planting and harvesting. Chronos time is the time when we plan and when we build. Chronos time is the time when we think and ponder and learn. We brush our teeth in chronos time, we gather mushrooms in chronos time, we buy and sell goods in chronos time.

The Greek word kairos, which also means ‘time,’ is used for the time when we choose. Kairos time is the time when we are pushed against the wall and must make decisions. Kairos time is the time when God steps into our lives and proclaims: This is the way, walk in it. Kairos time is the time when we hit a dead end in our lives and we say: Where to now?

In the Hebrew and Christian dispensations kairos time is always a time of grace (in Greek charos, ‘grace’ though spelled differently). Kairos time is when God’s voice resounds in our hearts and our lives. Kairos time is when God’s call is heard with urgency, with passion, with a sense of now or never.

But kairos time does not just happen, does not just appear out of the blue. “Oh, it’s now kairos time.” No, the ability to be aware of kairos time demands discipline. Kairos time is not experienced by those who eat and drink and sleep with no restraints. Kairos time cannot be entered when we are caught up in the cares of this world. That is why we monks have traditionally gone into the desert, the place without earthly comforts or luxuries. That is why the Spirit propelled Jesus into the desert to be tested. He too had to learn to wait for the kairos time of the Father. That is why the first words out of Jesus’ mouth when he has proclaimed that the kairos is here are: Repent. Change your ways. Do a 180. Believe.

Having said all this, we can see that kairos time happens in chronos time, even if it is not identified with it. We may be working with the mushrooms when the Lord’s hand comes strongly upon us. When we say: “Ah ha”, God is here. When we say: “Yes, Lord, I will follow you.” When we shout out: You are truth and love to those who do your will.

Jesus proclaims today: Kairos time is upon us. We can no longer move about as if God is absent, as if God no longer cares, as if having set the universe in motion, God steps back and becomes an innocent bystander. As if God looks on the world with no interest, with no passion, with no involvement. Jesus is emphatic: The time (kairos) is fulfilled. All the hopes and dreams of the Hebrew people, all the preparations of God over many centuries have been brought to their ultimate fulfillment. All that God had planned is now present, is made available to each one of us. God calls us now. God calls us here. And our part? Listen.

And what does God say? We have heard it clearly in our first reading from Genesis. As for me, says God, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.

My brothers and sisters, God makes a covenant with us today! The Letter of Saint Peter also made this clear: Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are washed clean of our sins, our consciences are made new again. We can look at God face to face, enter into an I / Thou relationship, listen and respond as creature and creator, as friend to friend.

Let us then approach the altar today to receive this cleansing, this covenantal renewing. Let us approach this Lent as a time to be aware of God’s kairos, God’s call to repentance and renewal, and God’s hand upon our lives for good and not for evil. Let us hold fast to discipline. As St Benedict would have us, let us deny ourselves something in food or drink or sleep or idle talk. Let us especially be more attentive to God’s holy word in the Scriptures and through our Lenten book. Let us give of ourselves to one another as our form of almsgiving. And let us do all this so that we may answer God’s kairos with alacrity and long for holy Easter with the joy of the Holy Spirit, as our father Saint Benedict encourages us.

Finally, my brothers and sisters, since we are in this kairos time of grace, let us ask ourselves throughout this holy season the questions with which we began: Where do we hear the voice of the Lord calling to us today? Where does the call to repentance resound in our hearts? How are we being asked to believe anew in the Good News?

Kairos time is upon us. Let us ask for God’s grace to respond to the Gospel with the joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And let the Church say: Amen!