Common Grounds

The Hourglass … Time Belongs to God

January 03, 2021

Living Words from John Paul II

Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen


Published Sunday, 26 January 2020

The Hourglass … Time Belongs to God

Each week we let Saint Pope John Paul II share meaningful signposts to spark socio-economic resolves through justice and righteousness combined with mercy and compassion; in short, love.


Our ancestors measured time with the hourglass. Today, digital and quartz clocks are used. Their advantage is that they can measure time right down to the second. However, modern clocks fail to communicate a message the hourglass vividly expresses: the sand trickling from the upper bulb to the lower. The trickling of the sand can be compared to the fate of time. Time passes; it has an end. It flows and runs out. It is like the limited number of years we are given. 


A few weeks ago, I was able to celebrate my 80th birthday … the festive days organized for me were an opportunity above all to thank God, my Creator, for having given me life. God is a generous giver:  in giving life, he also gives time. The time we have available to us is a gift from God. Managing time has much to do with faith. God has time.


What we do with this gift depends on us. People can waste time or lose it; they can squander it or even kill it. But there are also other possibilities. Time is given to us so that we can use it and fill it. 


Time well used is so valuable that we can give it away as a precious gift. If the proverb says:  "Time is money", then Christ replies:  "Time cannot be bought with money. Time is worth more than gold". 


I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, be generous with your time! Give it to each other:  pastors to their parishes and parishes to their pastors, husbands to their wives and vice versa, children to their parents, young people to the elderly, the healthy to the sick, one to another. Whoever gives time to others is giving them life. 


May unity be an important value for you! Do not let yourselves be divided by any earthly power … My prayer for you is that what St Paul wrote to the Romans may be fulfilled:  "May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another … that together you may with one voice glorify God … " (Romans 15: 5-6). 


Once again, I return to the hourglass, which contains yet another valuable message. The sand which trickles from the upper bulb to the lower does not only indicate the passage of time. The sand is also a messenger of Christian hope, for it does not fall into a void. It is gathered in the lower bulb. 


The bulbs of an hourglass remind me of God's hands stretched out to us. We can abandon ourselves into his hands. They gather up our time. Time lies in God's hands.


Excerpts from Message of John Paul II to Archbishop Ludwig Averkamp of Hamburg for 94rth German ‘Katholikentag’ 23 May 2000


Abraham A. van Kempen is Sr. Editor of the Building the Bridge Foundation, The Hague.




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