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Time can mean different things depending on how it is measured

           Stick with me, here.

           In the year 1970, I was 16. Fifty-two years prior to 1970 was the year 1918, the end of the Great War and the birth of the Spanish Flu that would eventually kill millions. When I was 16, the year 1918 seemed like ancient history, a different world.

          Fifty-two years prior to the year 2020 was the year 1968. I remember 1968 like it was yesterday. Now, if the year 1918 seemed like ancient history to me when I was 16, doesn’t it stand to reason that a 16-year-old in the year 2020 would just as naturally view 1968 as ancient history as well? A different world?

          But let’s take this one step further. Fifty-two years from the year 2020 will be the year 2072, and the person who is now 16 will be 68. For a person who is 16 in 2072, the year 2020 will be ancient history, just as 1968 is ancient history to the 16-year-old of today, and 1918 was ancient history to me in 1970.

          So what?

          Here’s what. This COVID-19 business we are dealing with now? The havoc it is creating in our country, our lives, our churches and our economy? For the 16-year-old in 2072, everything we’re going through now will be ancient history, a blip on the history meter, just as World War I and the Spanish Flu was ancient history to me when I was 16; just as King, Kennedy and Tet are ancient history to a 16-year-old today.

         Time is a creation of God, and while God sees all time as ‘now’(kairos), on this side of death you and I experience time sequentially (chronos). And what makes us squirm now will eventually be a yawn to later mortals.

         But since time is a creation of God, that also means that time has been redeemed. “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5) and “Old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17). And all these new “things” come about through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. 

         So we’re stuck. Intellectually, you and I understand what the Paschal Mystery does for us, but emotionally you and I must muddle through the mire of this current COVID-19 mess. And from our vantage point in chronos, this produces “stuck-ness.”

         St. Augustine grappled with this, too. Oh, not with a virus, but with the Roman Empire collapsing all around him. He moves from saying, “No moment of time passes except by your will.” (Confessions, Book XI, Chapter 2) to “…time itself was of your making” (chapter 14) to “We say that a hundred years is a long time ago or a long time ahead. A short time ago or a short time ahead we might put at 10 days.

         But how can anything which does not exist be either long or short? “For the past is no more and the future is not yet.” (chapter 15) to “If the future and the past do exist, I want to know where they are. I may not yet be capable of such knowledge, but at least I know that whatever they are, they are there as future or past, but as present.” (chapter 18).  

         Thus, it makes no difference whether it’s the year 1918, 1970, 2020 or 2072, for all time is “nowfor God,” and since God created time, God has also redeemed time. And this scourge which has killed loved ones and acquaintances, and which has frustrated those who have survived, does not have the final say. As you read this, those loved ones and acquaintances are in the light of God.

         Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you and I grapple with sorting all this out, but knowing in the backs of our minds that those who will come after us won’t give all of this anguish very much thought. Just like a 16-year-old in 1970 gave very little thought to the Spanish Flu or the slaughter at the Somme.

        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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