Fullness of time

Question: We teach that God is changeless. But at some point the Second Person of the Trinity became man. How is this hypostatic union not a change in God?  

Tim Hart

Answer: Among other things, the answer to your question is caught up in a very deep mystery of God’s relationship to time. In fact, many of our questions about God, and our struggle to understand him, go back to this mystery. 

The fact is, God does not dwell in time as you and I do. Rather, he dwells in the fullness of time, a mystery we call “eternity.”  

The word eternity does not simply mean a long, long time. Rather, eternity means “the fullness of time.” That is, past, present and future are all experienced at once. 

To illustrate eternity, consider a clock. Let us say that the current time is noon. For us who live in serial time, that means that 3 p.m. is in the future, and 9 a.m. is in the past. But now move your eyes to the center dot of the round clock face.   At that center point, all three times noon, 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., are equally present, and have the same relationship with that center dot. 

This is an analogy of what we mean by eternity. Thus, for God, who is eternal, the future is just as present to him as the past. God is not waiting for things to happen, neither is he reminiscing on things past. All is present to him in a comprehensive “now.” 

This is mysterious to us but helps illustrate why our questions about God are often wrong, even in the way we ask them. Thus, your question about whether God “changed” when Jesus became incarnate, presupposes that God lives in time as we do. But he does not. 

Change, as we define it, presupposes serial or chronological time. But God is not there. God is beyond such categories. 

Thus we are right to conclude, as you observe, that God does not change. And yet he is able to interact with us who do change. But how exactly this is accomplished is mysterious to us and is caught up in our limited capacity to understand the mystery that we call time. In no sense is God waiting around to do things, like becoming man, nor is he changing as time goes along. All is present to him in a comprehensive now. God simply Is. 

Question: Jesus embraced the sinner. The Church reconciles women after abortion and has prison outreach. Why won’t the Church embrace homosexuals?  

Name Withheld, San Diego, Calif.

Answer: For the record, the Church does have an outreach to homosexual persons known as Courage. It emphasizes living the virtue of chastity by teaching that homosexuals live celibately. While many do accept this outreach, it is also true many homosexuals reject this call to live celibately. 

It is, of course, challenging for the Church to reach out to those homosexuals who insist that the only way we can “properly” minister to them is to accept wholeheartedly and uncritically what God teaches is sinful. 

Jesus embraced sinners, but he also called them to repentance. Proper ministry, and love, is rooted in the truth of what God reveals. Scripture consistently and at every stage defines homosexual acts as gravely disordered and sinful. It also condemns fornication, adultery and incest. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.