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BEFORE THE CROSS | God stresses the importance of timing

Jesus knew that true words, spoken at the wrong time, can have a destructive effect

“Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” So says God to the prophet Habakkuk in one of the readings this week. It makes me think about the importance of timing.

Jesus certainly knew the importance of timing. After the Transfiguration, which we celebrate on Monday, He charged the disciples “not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Peter, James and John had just seen something amazing. Naturally, they would want to tell everyone; but not everyone was ready to hear about it. Jesus taught them to wait until the timing was right.

Timing is an important element in the whole sweep of salvation history. This is one of the great things about “The Great Adventure Bible Study” by Jeff Cavins: it teaches people to see how God’s plan unfolds — how all the pieces fit together in one timeline.

Why should time matter?

One reason is the extension of a principle provided by St. Thomas Aquinas. He pointed out that no one finite creature could fully reflect God’s infinite goodness. So God made many creatures, that they might reflect His goodness in different ways. Likewise, no single time frame can fully express God’s goodness. So God manifests His goodness across multiple time frames in order to show us different aspects of His goodness. When we see all those times together, and understand their sequence, we get a better picture of God.

Another reason is an extension of the principle of why we have sacraments. We learn the truth through our senses. God made us that way. So, out of respect for our nature, He taught us spiritual truths through physical realities, and He continues to do so through the sacraments. The same truth applies to time. It takes time for us to understand. So, like a master teacher, God works with us step by step. Salvation history is God’s curriculum — it gives us the knowledge and skills we need. But it gives them to us one step at a time, as we’re able to handle them.

Think of it like music. When we know and love a piece of music we don’t only appreciate the individual notes. We know and love their movement, how they unfold over time and work together. Salvation history and our own spiritual development work the same way.

On Thursday, we hear Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Afterward, Jesus “strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ” — not because it wasn’t true, but because the timing wasn’t right. True words, spoken at the wrong time, can have a destructive effect. Jesus knew that. We need to think about that.

Everything in salvation history — from its grand sweep down to its little details – suggests that timing matters to God. It’s worth thinking about our own words, deeds and lives in that light.

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