From our Bishop:
As we begin a new calendar year, having begun a new liturgical year a month ago in Advent season, many of us will reflect on the passing of time. In Book Eleven of St. Augustine’s Confessions, he notes that the past is no more, the future is not yet, and the present must immediately become the past, because if it didn’t, it would be eternity instead of time. His argument that time may not actually exist probably won’t prevent most of us from thinking about how we spent our time during the last year or dreaming about how we will spend time in the year ahead.
Advent season reminded us that we can miss what God is doing if we pay too much attention to all the things that fill up our time. Advent reminded us to keep awake! To be prepared for God to act in the midst of our time and at the end of time. Advent reminded us that God is constantly creating time and is constantly drawing all things toward Christ. Advent reminded us that no matter how much we think we control time, or how much we want time to unfold in pleasing ways, time does not belong to us. Time belongs to God.
Eighty-five years ago, television came to Canada, bringing with it many American shows. In 1944, a long-running series called Candid Camera began broadcasting across North America. My family obtained a television in 1961, and Candid Camera quickly became a family favourite. The show’s premise involved deception: an unsuspecting person would be approached by an actor, who would draw the person into a gag which eventually resulted in them looking totally astonished or bewildered until the gag was revealed. The television audience could watch with wicked delight because they knew what the gag was and could laugh at the confusion, antics, shock, and surprise of the unsuspecting person.
The tension was delicious. Viewers were able to see what the person thought was happening while knowing what was actually going on. It was like watching two realities at once: what could be seen and what couldn’t be seen.
Human beings are a little bit like the unsuspecting people on Candid Camera: we assume that what we see happening around us is all there is. We see global crises like the obscene number of civilian deaths in Gaza and other war zones, millions of refugees, gross inequalities between individuals and nations, and indicators of a global climate emergency. We see local crises stemming from the acute lack of affordable housing, poverty, hatred, and opioid use. And we experience ups and downs in our personal lives, be they material, physical, mental or spiritual. As we fixate on these immediate and urgent realities, it is very easy to forget that time does not belong to human beings. We can miss (or dismiss) the reality of what God is doing.
So how do we move to a place where we become aware of what God is doing—where we can see and feel what is happening in God’s time?
The season of Epiphany reminds us that the nature and purpose of God is “shown forth” in Jesus. We are reminded that, even when it seems most unlikely—even when global, local, and personal crises unfold—God is inexorably drawing all things, all time, all creation, into the indestructible love revealed in Christ Jesus. We are reminded that when we walk closely with Jesus, we will become more conscious of God’s purpose.
As this new calendar year begins, think about spending more time in God’s time. Move close to Jesus by praying frequently with listening hearts and minds, seeking guidance and perspective as much as comfort and consolation. And walk closely with Jesus by doing your very best to act and speak in ways that reflect the teaching of Jesus: ways that are kind, generous, just, courageous, faithful, gentle, joyful, healing, merciful, compassionate, peaceful, hopeful, and loving.
The Right Reverend Shane Parker
Bishop of Ottawa
February 1, 2023