There are two very interesting words used in today’s Gospel reading: ‘time’ and ‘repent’ I think it would be interesting if we took a bit of a look at them. In Greek these two words are kairos and metanoia. Kairos meaning time; and metanoia which means conversion or repentance.
Jesus said, ‘The time has come.’ For us there is only one word for time, but in Greek there are two words kairos and chronos.
Chronos means the passage of time. We use it in English when we say that someone has a chronic illness. Often this is misunderstood as meaning that they have a very serious illness but actually it means a very long illness. A chronic illness is one that goes on over many years. He’s got a case of chronic arthritis, for example.
Kairos is something different and it’s the word Mark uses. It means a propitious moment, a suitable time. By Jesus saying the time has come, he means that this is the favourable moment for him to begin his ministry. This is the time appointed by God for his salvation to be made manifest to the world. The hour has come and Jesus begins his ministry.
But each of us has his or her own kairos, our own propitious moment. There is a time in each of our lives when things come to a head and we are faced with a fundamental choice. A sacred moment when Jesus confronts us with a choice –when he invites us to make a decision.
Maybe you have already experienced your particular kairos long ago. You can look back on your life and realise that at a certain age everything pointed in a particular direction and you chose the road to follow in life. Maybe over the years since then there have been many vicissitudes but I am certain that you do not regret the decision you made to deepen your life with Christ.
But maybe that hour is yet to come. Look at Saint Dismas, the one we call the good thief. His hour came at the last possible moment, but come it did. How could he have predicted that it would come as he was dying on a cross and that his neighbour up there on Calvary would be the Divine Saviour himself?
In the New Testament this word kairos is very connected with the other important word in today’s Gospel metanoia –conversion. Jesus says, ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
This is probably the shortest summary anywhere of the message of Jesus and it is a call that echoes down through the centuries to us today. Jesus says to each one of us now, ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
Repent –Metanoia quite literally means turning around. That is what repentance means, turning around from one’s old way of life and beginning to live a new life. Ask any alcoholic or drug addict, they know exactly what this turning around means. To give up an addiction whether it be to alcohol, drugs, spending or sex, or any other addiction for that matter, absolutely requires a complete reorientation of one’s life.
It is the same with sin. If we are to try to give up being selfish, spiteful, jealous, envious, greedy or deceitful it means a complete turning around. It means going in a totally different direction.
It is no mistake that I compare sin with addiction. Sin is addictive. I used to be chaplain in Eastwood Park Women’s Prison and ten minutes in there would tell you that crime is addictive, so is sin. It’s a downward spiral. It is allowing evil into your life and letting it fester there; the only cure is to call on the help of God and to walk away, to leave it behind just like those disciples left their nets on the shore.
Deep ingrained bad habits are best countered by introducing deep ingrained good habits. The addict knows this. He has to substitute going to AA for going to the pub. We have to do the same. If we don’t go to Jesus we will go to the devil.
As we have said metanoia means turning around. But not turning around to simply stop there. No, it means turning around to go in a different direction. Why else would we turn around? Just to have a look at Jesus? No that would be simply trivial.
As with those disciples it means turning around one’s life, leaving our former way of life and following Jesus. Turning around in order to go after him. We have to leave our nets on the ground and begin to live a new life. In this new life we live with Jesus. We spend our days always conscious of his closeness to us. We enter into a state of communion with him. In many different ways he nourishes us and draws us ever closer to himself.
It is a big challenge and maybe you feel that the time for you isn’t just yet. But that time will surely come. The kairos will arrive. The decision will have to be made. And it will have to be made quickly, putting it off won’t help at all.
And once the decision is made there can be no going back. Once we start we can’t stop and return to our old ways for that would mean rejection of God.
The people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s preaching and did what he told them to do. They gave up their evil ways. They fasted and did penance in repentance of their sins and God relented and drew back his punishment. No one was more surprised at this than Jonah!
The People of Israel regarded the Ninevites as the worst people in the world and the message of Jonah is that if even these can repent and begin to live a new life then so can anyone.
As St Paul says this world is passing away. The years of our own lives hurtle by. A year ago seems like just yesterday. Of course, we don’t know when God will call us to himself. But we know that our life on this earth will certainly come to an end and that indeed our time is already running out. Time is short. The hour has come for us to choose.
So, let us choose goodness, truth, wisdom and love. Let us take the Lord Jesus to be our guide. Let us go where he leads us. Let his words be on our lips. Let his thoughts be in our heads. Let his joy be in our hearts. Let his love overflow in our lives.
This is the kairos: now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket