This is an important question. One brief glance at our lives will show how much we allow ourselves to be governed by time. Either we have too little and are always racing against the clock to get things done, leaving ourselves exhausted, or we have too much, and we waste time in meaningless pursuits. In either case we are constantly asking, "What time is it?" A better question to pose is: "What is time?" Its answer can change our lives radically and usher in the happiness that we so earnestly seek at this and every new year.
As the entire world marks the passing of time, the Christian Church proposes its deepest meaning. Time is the succession of minutes, hours, days, months and years in which history unfolds. In the Christian worldview, this history is neither meaningless nor arbitrary. It unfolds according to a plan, God's plan, and is filled with purpose, namely the salvation of the human race. This is why Christians refer to history as salvation history. God is Creator, the author of this world and all that marks it, including time. We may mistakenly allow ourselves to think that time governs us. The truth is that God governs time and shapes it in accordance with his saving purpose.
Throughout history, God has intervened in our lives. He called Abraham and formed a people; he sent Moses to give us the law; he spoke through prophets to summon us to fidelity. Finally he so acted as to reveal perfectly the meaning of time and bring it to its fulfilment. "When the fullness of time had come," St. Paul tells us, "God sent his son, born of a woman." (Galatians 4: 4).
At the centre of salvation history stands a child and his mother. The child, God's own son, was born in time of the Virgin Mary and named Jesus. He, the eternal Son of God, entered time and assumed our human nature so that he might rescue it from sin by his death on the Cross and resurrection from the dead.
What is time? It is the "place" or "space" in which God, who dwells in eternity, comes to us in the gift of His Son, born of Mary. Jesus has ascended to heaven, but he continues to meet us in time through the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we open our lives to this encounter, we discover the meaning of time and the true source of happiness within it.