We live in a world governed by time – years, months, days, hours and minutes, even seconds must be accounted for by all means. Very aptly, therefore, we are surrounded with all kinds of time-measuring devices: from a variety of calendars, to a plethora of wall clocks and watches of all kinds and shapes.
I have at least five calendars at home: One for garbage collection days, one for paydays, one for class and exam schedules, one for Catholic feastdays and name-days which we Poles prefer to celebrate rather than birthdays.
The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord: make his paths straight.'
I wake at night to the ticking of a red Ikea clock on the wall across from my bed and the ticking of an alarm clock on the bed-stand. The clock on the bathroom wall times my morning showers and the clock in the kitchen reminds me that I have a maximum of 15 minutes for breakfast.
My office clock is always set fast, so I can be granted the illusion of spare time.
The tiny digital clock in the lower right corner of my laptop, however, is a much harsher master, as it's right on time – and now it tells me that I have only 10 more minutes left before I have to go to class.
My university has clocks everywhere, too, so as I move from building to building I can check my progress: Am I on time?
With all this ticking around me and all the date-checking, with life run by the clock and calendar, how am I to remember that God is the master of both space and time, the only king of the universe with all its dimensions, known and unknown? That he is my king?
How in this rush of seconds and days can "the word of God" come to me as it came to John, son of Zechariah?
Yet, without this word and its acceptance – I will perish.
John the Baptist did not live by the clock in the desert. He lived by sunrise and sunset, by slow changes of seasons, by time of prayer which was less an action or duty and more a state of being, by his increasing thirst for God, by his patient yet profound waiting for the Word.
Do I wait for the Word of God?
Do I wait for the Eucharist, the source of my eternal life, with the longing of "John in the desert"? Or do I "do" my Sunday Mass, file it away, another duty among all other duties that my calendar throws at me on that day? Into the church three minutes before Mass and out the minute the celebration is over?
Yet, John who came to prepare the way for the Lord, and later diminished himself, "so that Jesus might grow," that John – the prophet who generously threw away his own life so that "every valley would be filled in" – did not have that knowledge of Jesus we now have and take for granted.
He was unaware of the mystery of God who "loved us to the end," who died for us and conquered death, who chose to take the humble form of bread and wine to nourish us with himself.
I think about it and I tremble.