On the last day of 2012 the readings of the Church gave us an odd juxtaposition. The first reading from the first letter of John (2:18-19) continues the “preparation” warnings of Advent. We are cautioned, “it is the last hour.”
Yet in the Gospel, also from John (1:1-18) we are reminded, “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
Why would both of these apparently contradictory readings appear on the same day the very last of the year? How can we be occupying the start and finish at the same time?
Maybe it’s just the tendency of we humans to label, classify, and pigeonhole things that narrow our view, but we need to be reminded that in God’s universe, there is no time. Time is purely a human construct and our concept of it does not come close to God’s practice of how the hours and the days proceed. For God it is always the “eternal now.”
We tend to make a “big deal” of endings with parties and celebrations like the very idea that we have endured the time has been some kind of accomplishment. We fete people for anniversaries of all kinds, birthdays, confirmations, promotions, retirement, and graduations. These all mark the ending of something. We tend to celebrate beginnings less with weddings being that primary focus.
If you really think about it, the ending or the beginning of something is really not the most important segment of the journey. Rather, it’s the day-to-day that requires the most effort and sometimes that falls into the heroic category.
All things considered these two readings at the ending of 2012 might not be so contradictory after all. The readings bring us to the perspective that every time something ends, at the very same moment a beginning is transpiring.
In fact beginnings and endings are not divided occurrences. They are synergistic. The December 31 scripture clearly gives the message that in God’s eye there is always a broader view. He sees what was and what will be.
For God this is not an episode that is marked by a milepost of any kind but rather an ongoing energy that He asks us to put our trust in. In God’s concept of time lies great hope. There is nothing that will disturb his constancy or flow of grace for each of us.
As 2013 gets underway we would do well to remind ourselves that God’s timeline is always moving and within that context he has an eye on each of us:
I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for your woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. (Jer 29:11)
In his Four Quartets T.S. Eliot sums it up elegantly, “In my end is my beginning.”
Copyright © 2013, Kathryn M. Cunningham