Discerning the signs of the times

It is easy to walk through life, day after day, without thinking of what is going on. But sometimes, our eyes are opened by a chance encounter with someone, by a beautiful sunset, by a tragedy shared with us.

These are moments of “kairos,” opportunities to change our direction or to deepen our commitments. They are moments of grace.

But it is so easy to miss them – as Jesus noted in today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 49-53). Some of us know how to interpret, to discern, the weather. But do we fail to interpret the signs of the times, or, as the Greek puts it, the “kairos,” the opportunity that God gives us, both personally and as a community of faith.

As I read today’s Gospel, I recalled an important sentence from Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, (4). To carry out its task of witnessing to the truth and service, carrying forth the work of Christ,

the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.

Our life of faith needs to be nourished by an openness to the Word of Christ in the world and to the Word of Christ.

Karl Barth once said that we need to pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.

Saint Augustine saw that God has given us the book of life and the book of faith. “Scripture explains what creation puts before us.”

Living and serving here in Honduras has opened me to reading the Gospel in a new way. Not only does the Scripture help me read the reality around me in a different way – often seeing hope where others see only despair. But the reality of the life of the poor has opened me to new ways of reading Scripture.

At least for me, the Bible needs to be read from the standpoint of the poor and oppressed, who were the first recipients of its Good News.

In Defenseless Flower: a New Reading of the Bible (page 71),Carlos Mesters, the Dutch missionary in Brazil, cites a campesino recalling that

 Our lives are reflected in the Gospel, and the Gospel is reflected back into our lives. Our first and foremost use of the Gospel is to compare it with our world to get a better idea of the shape of our lives. Once you’ve discovered the Gospel, life joins in a duet with it, harmonizing even in the most trivial details.

Discerning the signs of the times – and the opportunities of our lives – opens us to reading the Gospel in new ways, letting the Good News cast a new light on our lives and on our times.

As Masters notes:

The Bible helps people to understand the world, and the world helps them understand better the meaning of the Bible.

So we discern the signs of the times with the eyes of the Gospels, so that the Gospel may become real in our times.


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