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In God’s time, beyond death, we will experience all reality as an everlasting ‘now’

       I like marking anniversaries.

For example, the year 2017 marks the centenary of the publication of T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock and Other Observations”; the publication of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (Okay, I’m fudging here. The book was actually published in late December 1916, but close enough.); and the entrance of America into World War I.

       June 1, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles. The year 2017 also marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses onto the door of a church in Wittenberg, thus sparking the Protestant Reformation.

       Marking anniversaries connects the dots of our past with our current situation. Anniversaries provide fodder for reflection, as any married couple will tell you. Anniversaries force us to see that the current time is merely the sum of what has gone before, and the foreshadowing of what will be.

       Anniversaries also show us that, in the end, nothing really changes. As the Good Book tells us, “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun.” (Eccl 1:9)   

       I marvel at the patience of God. Over the ages, we humans keep making the same mistakes over and over again. For all our technological sophistication, we humans today are no different from our medieval forbearers. Our vices remain the same, just performed at a different level and through different mediums. Yet God keeps wooing us back anyway. You would think God would just throw up his hands in frustration.

       Anniversaries are about time. In his “Confessions,”St. Augustine writes, “I do not measure the future, because it does not yet exist; I do not measure the present, because it is not extended in space; I do not measure the past, because it no longer exists. What, then, do I measure?”

       You might say, “Why, it’s 10 a.m.” It is in Northwest Indiana, but not 70 miles to the east in South Bend. There, it’s 11 a.m. Time rides on a slippery slope.

       Marking anniversaries is our feeble attempt to measure time, to get some kind of handle on it. But in the end, the anniversary is a mystery. A couple who has been married for decades will frequently ask each other upon their wedding anniversary “Where did the time go?” And when they look back on those decades, they say, “It’s all been a blur.”

       The only answer to time is God. God is beyond time, because in God, there is all the past,  present and future. What do we say in the doxology? “As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.”

       On this leg of our eternal journey, we experience time. In that leg of our journey that lies beyond death, when we hopefully are in the presence of God, I believe we will be beyond time. Then, along with God, we will experience all reality as an everlasting “now.”

       Until then, we’re stuck in time.

       So take solace in the Scriptures, especially the Psalms. “O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.” (Ps 30:13); “You are my hiding place, O Lord; you save me from distress.” (Ps 32:7)

       And this:

       “Long ago you founded the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish but you will remain. They will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like clothes that are changed. But you neither change, nor have an end.” (Ps 102:26-28)

       Anniversaries, too, bring out the poet in us; that’s why the Psalms are so important: they say what we cannot. And if poetry or psalms are beyond us, well, we look to Hallmark.

       Yet, the moderns have taken a stab at it. Listen to Eliot through Prufrock:

       “Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea.”

       And so, fellow followers of Jesus the Christ, mark that anniversary, your anniversary, whatever it may be. In time we will, as St. Paul writes, “be subjected to the One who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28) That’s something to which we can look forward.

       But be confident in doing so. What does Joyce put on Stephen’s lips? “O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience . . .”

       Make it a million and one times, people.

 

       Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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