The Friday Thought - It’s time to cut a long story short

I was thinking about changing my attitude to life by becoming more organised in my approach, especially when structuring my days. I had to apologise a few weeks ago in Altnagelvin Hospital. I had caused shock and consternation by beginning the Saturday evening 8pm Mass on time! Such was the drama and commotion I had to begin by saying sorry for being punctual for once and promised it would never happen again. On these occasions I reflect on what I have inherited from my parents. My father is very conscious of time, organised for most things, he hates being late. My mother is more laid back, she works out of what we like to call Strabane time. On occasions we think her sole purpose in life is to put a spanner in the works of those who believe everything should run according to some predetermined time table. In this parallel universe other considerations become the main priority; as of yet we haven’t worked out these influences.

Most of her children have inherited this gene whereby, if you reach an appointment or destination within five or ten minutes of the agreed time, then you’re doing well enough. I have pictured myself keeping an eye on the clock, checking the time, determined to be punctual, then all of a sudden some distraction intervenes and without any effort or deliberate foresight you’re running ten minutes late. I often wonder why I find myself in a rush, you spend most of your day apologising to people and trying to explain how you should be somewhere else as you spend five or ten minutes talking to them. On many an occasion someone will ask for a word and and I’ll say, I only have two minutes. This response only partly registers as the man or woman launches into their story. Then you begin rocking forward and back, making as if you really need to be going somewhere. The only thing this action accomplishes is making you seasick or creating the impression you need to go to the bathroom.

Finally, when you have lost all hope, after the person has begun at year zero, you’re rewarded with the killer blow when you hear the notorious phrase as the person declares, ‘well, to cut a long story short.’ Inevitably it doesn’t cut anything short apart from your will to live and you begin to wonder how many more chapters there must have been to this tale if the last 15 minutes has been the concise version of the drama. Of course, my reactions to such situations reflect more my disorganised chaos and the reality of how in this hectic and ever increasing pace of life we no longer have time for people. Always on the go and being in a rush, we begin to see chance meetings and conversations as obstacles and hindrances. When time and the pressures of our daily routines begin to dominate our lives we no longer have the freedom and space to enjoy the encounters with our neighbours and friends which can enhance and enrich our lives. Instead when we’re under pressure we begin to see other people as problems.

Now that we’re in the last week of the church year we’re asked to open our lives up to a different conception of time and the radically different priorities of the kingdom of God. What we celebrate when we recognise Jesus Christ as king is the demand to live our lives under the guidance of eternal truth and the call to service which is at the heart of God’s love for the world. The demands of the kingdom are made real through our daily encounters with men and women. God’s kingdom develops and grows in accordance with our witnessing to great truth revealed through Jesus Christ. The truth of God’s eternal love for all humanity is revealed in the way we treat and greet one another, in the way we respect and listen to one another. True power in the kingdom of God is summed up in our willingness to recognise all humanity as our brothers and sister, serving them with humility and compassion. In the wake of so much violence at home and abroad, true power resides in the exercise of mercy.

Gerald Darring sums of the Kingdom of God well when he declared: ‘The Kingdom of God is a space. It exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy. The Kingdom of God is a time. It happens whenever someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person. It happens whenever we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war. It happens whenever people join in the struggle to overcome poverty, to erase ignorance, to pass on the faith.

‘The Kingdom of God is in the past (in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth); it is in the present (in the work of the church and in the efforts of many others to create a world of goodness and justice); it is in the future (reaching its completion in the age to come).

‘The Kingdom of God is a condition. Its symptoms are love, justice, and peace.

‘Jesus Christ is king! We pray that God may free all the world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love.’