Tuesday, December 8, 2020

God Is Outside of Time

 Because of the pandemic, many parishes now video-stream Sunday Mass on the Internet, so folks can participate from home while watching their computers. My parish uses Facebook as the video platform, which records and saves copies of each Mass. This means you don’t have to watch it live. You can play back the video whenever you want later on.

In addition to videos of Sunday Mass, a lot of religious programming can be found on various websites, including YouTube. There are hundreds of different videos of the Rosary, and my wife and I enjoy praying along with the people who made the videos.
However, this raises an interesting question. If you pray with something that was pre-recorded, which means the people who made the video certainly are not praying at the exact same moment you are, is it valid prayer?

For example, if your parish priest consecrates the host during Mass at exactly 10:39 a.m., but you bow your head and whisper, “My Lord and my God,” at 1:15 p.m., as you watch a recording of Mass, are you in fact honoring the Lord’s body? I mean, for one thing, you’re looking at an iPad or laptop computer, five or 10 miles away from where the Mass took place. For another thing, the church where the Mass occurred is empty at 1:15. And the Eucharist that was consecrated a few hours earlier has already been distributed to people who attended Mass in person. They consumed the Blessed Sacrament and went their separate ways after Mass.

So, does your expression of reverence and devotion, no matter how sincere, really count? Does God acknowledge your prayer, even if a consecrated host does not exist at the moment you’re bowing your head reverently toward a flickering image on a screen?

Not surprisingly, this issue is not addressed in the Bible. Back in those days, they did not have the technology to record sound and/or images to be played back later, so none of the apostles ever thought to ask Jesus, “Hey Lord, is it OK if I sleep late on the Sabbath and then watch a replay of the service later on my stone tablet?” (Or if someone did ask that question, the writers of the Gospels were wise enough to edit out both the question and the reply Jesus might have offered: “Nope, get your keister to synagogue, because the wifi signal at your house is too weak.”)
The Bible does tell us this about God: “With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8). This is a poetic way of saying that God is outside of time as we know it. The Church teaches that God is omniscient and omnipresent, that is, He is all-knowing and always present. Time is an aspect of our three dimensional natural world, and since God is a supernatural being, it’s only logical that He is outside of time. Every moment in history — past, present, and future — is present to God as if it’s occurring right now.

Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that it doesn’t bother God at all if we reverently pray along with a pre-recorded video. God is able to blend the prayers of the person who recorded the video with our prayer while watching it, even though they occurred at different times. In God’s omniscient mind, it’s as if both are happening at the same time.
One last comment about this topic: although our prayers are heard, even if we’re sitting on the couch in our pajamas while watching a computer, it definitely is better to be at Mass in person. Of course, while this pandemic drags on and on, those of us in high risk groups must be careful — and the bishops have made it clear that Mass attendance is not an obligation if we personally think it’s too risky.

The important thing is to pray with all of our heart and mind and soul. And even if we’re watching a recorded video, the all-knowing and all-loving God hears and answers our prayer.

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