By John Rieping | Published 15 Nov. 2013 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved
If November were a week, I suppose we'd have reached hump day. If it were a year, surely we in North America would be in the season of the Cooldown. However it is dubbed, the middle is upon us.
We tend to be selective in how we celebrate the passage of time, and the ways in which we do so reveal much about our thinking.
In East Asia, a person would traditionally be reckoned one year old on the day of birth, and would add a year of age every new lunar year, which is shorter than our standard solar year. Those who fear the rising tally of years should be grateful to follow the Western system instead. But, as children and teenagers, who wouldn't like at least an extra nine months of "maturity" -- with the freedoms it sometimes brings?
The newest pastor of St. Joachim Catholic Church in Madera, California will cross the symbolic threshold of another year of life Sunday, according to a nosy tattletale known as Facebook. For the curious, Rev. John Warburton shares his birth year with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the National Basketball Association as well as Hollywood stars Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.
Normally I wouldn't announce the existence milestones of those in Madera. Ultimately that would end in pain and bloodshed for me I fear (it would only be a matter of time). But the anniversary of birth seemed a providential coincidence, because my publisher asked me weeks ago to write an article or column on the subject -- of Warburton, not birthdays.
A gracious hour-long interview followed, duly recorded by an electronic doohickey (not to be confused with a doodad or thingamabob). All that remained was the digestion of the mind and the use of a writer's craft. After diligent laziness and prompt procrastination, the day has finally arrived to... um... ask for more time.
(If leaders of other faiths in Madera would be likewise patient with me, I'd welcome writing of them as well. Visit my website, listed at the tail of every column, to contact me.)
Our life is truly outlined and governed by this intangible ghost we call time. In science, realists who follow the thinking of Sir Isaac Newton consider time as a basic invention of the mind to order and compare what happens -- as well as a dimension of reality itself. Some philosophers, in contrast, view time as completely abstract, unreal, and unmeasurable.
Yet measure it we do, whether by years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes or seconds. We basically do so through the change it brings, and that is the one constant of time, so fickle in our experience.
The late Pope John Paul II pondered the issue of time on June 4, 2000. He remarked: "Time is given to us to use and fill. Well-used time is so valuable because we can give it again as a valuable gift. While the proverb says, 'Time is money,' the Christian answers, 'Time is not paid with money. Time is worth more than gold.'"
Referring to a shapely device once commonly used to track time in centuries long past, he suggested: "The sand that runs from the top to the bottom of the hourglass not only indicates that time goes by. The sand is at the same time a messenger of Christian hope. For it doesn't run into nothingness. In the bottom it is caught and gathered.
"The frame of the hourglass reminds me of God's hands that hold us. In his hands, we can let ourself fall. They collect our time. Time lies in God's good hands.
“Every evening in Night Prayer [as part of the Liturgy of the Hours] we pray, 'Lord, I trust in you, into your hands I place my life.' This petition doesn't apply only to individuals; it is an evening prayer that all people can make their own, if they entrust the success of their daily tasks and work ultimately in God, the Lord of all times."
As we enter the often busy weeks ahead of Thanksgiving Day (U.S.) and the Advent, Christmas, football, and other seasons, let us not be haunted by the specter of time or the ghosts of holidays past, present or future.
For those who believe in God, time is not a taskmaster or a doombringer. It is a gift we open each day. Let us receive it each morning with joy and make the best of what we have been given. In doing so, we re-gift it to God and others. May we fill it with love.