In his book Time Machine, H.G. Wells tells the story of a man who has invented a machine which is able to catapult a person to a different time. This same person who invents the machine tests it out and is taken to a different period in human history, thousands of years from the actual time he lives in.
The time that he arrives at appears to be an idealic period, everyone living a good life with no problems. But it becomes clear that on earth there are 2 types of humans that exist now, those who live above the ground and those who live below. Those on the surface live a carefree existence, but the truth comes out that they are dominated by those who live underground and are lured to their caves and eaten by them.
The novel is written in 1895 and gave birth to many books that came after which were all about time travel. Books that speculated about what the future would look like, about being able to travel to a different time and so on.
Strangely enough we are on the same kind of territory at Mass today. The Book of Daniel imagines time travel, it projects us to the far end of time, and puts us on a landscape unknown to us, an angel, a book, a final definitive judgement. He imagines this time, this moment, like a moment of supreme justice – when everything is put to rights – the just are blessed the evil are cursed. Every bit of human history is recorded – the good get what they deserve, the bad get what they deserve. It’s a time of supreme justice.
Some people might be consoled by that reading, especially if you are downtrodden, wronged, a victim. But I am not sure it completes the picture of what that time will be like. Where’s the mercy? Where the compassion? It says a bit about God but it doesn’t say everything – there’s justice but above all there is mercy..
The Gospel also strangely is about spiritual Time travel too. It places us like that first reading, right at the end of things, at the edge of the universe, at the far end of time. It describes everything in cataclysmic terms. Lights going out, stars falling from the sky. Powers being shaken. A moment of terror.
This is not a consoling reading and is clearly not meant to be. It echoes that first reading, that seems to say at the end everything and everyone will be sorted out. Get ready for a day of justice.
It seems that HG Wells had a fascination with time, time now and time in the future. How things are now and how they would be in the future.
Human beings have always had that curiosity and fascination with this same subject. Snake doctors have told us our future. Astrologers have gazed into the stars to predict what is coming. People have cut cards or looked at the lines on our hand to say how things would go for us.
People like to speculate about how things will turn out.
HG Wells plays about with these themes in his book.
The passages that we have listened today at Mass make us think about that interplay of time – time now and time in the future. What we are doing with the time that is given to us now and where it is all leading in the future.
The readings seem to say that is leading somewhere to a day of justice, a day when everything will be clear, when all the strivings and effort now will make sense then.
When you think of It it’s the one thing we have all been given - time. Time. Time here and now. When you are young you think you have endless amounts of time, that you are bullet proof. When you are older that sense of time being short strikes you.
Most of us would like to think that we have used the time well. But the readings make us think. What in actual fact are we doing with the time that is given to us?
Do we let it run through our fingers? What at the end of the day have we to show for it? What have we achieved? What have we done? Do we allow it to be frittered away on nothing, or worry about things that are not worth worrying about?
What have we to show for all our strivings and work and efforts?
When that day of justice comes where will we find ourselves?
We are given time into our hand. What becomes of it? Time wasted. Time for self indulgence? Time to do nothing or time to do something and achieve something? What will it be?
HG Wells plays with the idea of time. Time now and time in the future. Time today and time tomorrow.
Most of us realise the time that we have today is all important for what happens tomorrow. Time now helps us to build things for the future. Time now helps us to achieve things. The greatest danger is to waste time and have nothing to show for it.
What we have heard in the readings would seem to say the same.