Time is Greater than Space
An important guiding principle of Pope Francis
When we think of Pope Francis, some of the images that appear to us are “mercy,” “shepherd that smells the sheep,” “simple living,” “smile on his face,” and so on.
One of the phrases that appear in his four important letters — Laudato Si, Amoris Laetitia, Evangeli Gaudium, and Lumen Fidei — is “Time is Greater than Space.”
Though he may not have used the same words, the echoes are heard in the Querida Amazonia too.
If somebody asks me the question, “what is important, time or space?” my response would be “it depends.” But we need to understand what Pope Francis means by this statement. I think his own words from Evangeli Gaudium (EG) can be a help here.
“Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back. Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces.” (Evangeli Gaudium, 223).
The words in the bold give us the clue. It is more about initiating processes than possessing spaces. Space is more connected to power and processes are connected to growth, transformation, and change.
An immediate question will be: What about the church? Does it not occupy spaces? Probably the response of Pope Francis would be, YES.
But it can’t be changed radically. What he is attempting is to initiate a process of change, which won’t be succeeded unless supported by the leaders of the church. How much it has succeeded is a question each one can answer.
A beautiful expression of this attitude is seen in the document called Amoris Laetitia (AL).
“I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does.” (Amoris Laetitia, 3).
Surely some leaders of the church can use this thinking as a justification to prevent genuine reforms needed in the church. I think that is a danger we should cautiously face than throwing out the baby with the bathtub.
- In the present context of Corona, we need to take some immediate action. But beyond that, we need to initiate many new processes, which may be new development models, new systems of support to the poor. When we don’t want to return to the old normal, initiating processes in due consultation is extremely important. A good example is doughnut economics. I hope BLM movement in the U.S., questions of migrants in India, and many other serious questions in different parts of the world can give rise to new processes, and not immediate solutions which are painkillers.
- During the period of lockdown (and before too), the church faced many questions. Some of the significant questions are regarding the power structures, the position of women in the church, sexual abuse, dealing with people with LGBTQ orientation, justice, the pro-life question, and so on. I hope we have more consultative dialogues and initiate processes that are in line with the vision of Kingdom of God.
- Peter is a better model than Paul for being a Christian or being a human. I admire Paul and his radical transformation on a particular day. Many of us may not be lucky to have such a transformation. Jesus patiently initiated journeys with Peter, which had their own highs and lows, and that is the commonality with any process. It takes time and it is a slow process. But you need to initiate processes that are leading towards the Kingdom of God.
- Parents, elders, counselors, and leaders shouldn‘t give their own solutions to all the problems (many times a cover-up solution), but help people to discover the lessons and solutions from the problem at hand. Teach them to fish rather than giving a fish.
Feel free to give your comments… For those who are interested, I have also written these pieces.
Beloved amazon — A Love Letter From Pope Francis
An invitation to dream with him and the people of Amazon.