Redeeming the time

Sometimes I wonder about how we will look back at this Covid period of our lives.

Will this time be regarded as “lost years” or “missing years”?

Will we be able to recall events clearly or will they be blurred, absent the ordinarily vivid and communal expressions of milestones?

And, will trauma and grief be suppressed by gradual good humour and selective nostalgia?

In The Year of Our Lord 1943, Alan Jacobs writes about the effects of the end of World War II saying, “As war comes to an end, and its exigencies cease, and people return to a freedom absent for so long that its return is discomforting, they think of the apparent lawlessness of Nature and Man alike…”

A few pages later, Jacobs says:

After the [After the war], after all, everyone was in a sense starting over. This was felt with particular intensity in Germany, of course, given the horrific destruction that had been visited on that country and the need for its government to be reconstituted from scratch. The moment that the Nazi government capitulated to the Allies came to be known in Germany as Stunde Null—zero hour—the moment that all the clocks go to reset. So began the Nachkriegzeit, the time after the war. But throughout Western Europe, in France and England almost as much as in Germany, there was a similar sense of having to begin anew. And [Jacques] Ellul’s book asks the question: what does faithful presence look like at the moment the clocks are all reset?

What does a faithful presence look like as the world emerges out of this pandemic?

Jacobs offers a more literal translation of Colossians 4:5, which says: “Walk in wisdom towards those who are outside, redeeming the time.”

About the various figures he explores throughout The Year of Our Lord 1943, Jacobs says that “they put forth every effort to redeem the time” in the sense that Christians are commanded by St. Paul to “redeem time” through pointing the way out of bondage into lives of dignity and freedom.

After the Second World War, there were many people and institutions engaged in the “reconstruction and preservation of society.” However, many people lacked the formation and preparation to truly identify the dimensions of life that deserved the greatest attention.

It seems critical, particularly after a crisis, for prophetic voices to highlight the value of saints and martyrs in bearing witness to the things of ultimate and eternal meaning and significance.

The time will begin to be redeemed as we discover what it is that our time is for.

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