The Scripture readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time have an ominous feeling to them. They touch on being ready and waiting for the coming of God in our lives and at the end of time. Most of us live with a fear that we may not be prepared when our time on earth comes to an end. Facing that fear and placing it where it belongs amongst our other fears is very important.
Since we don’t know when our earthly lives will end, that fear can have much more power than is necessary. Trying to be specific about day and time with something unknown is thoroughly frustrating and pointless. It leads to such a high anxiety level and wastes so much energy.
We do know that we are deeply motivated by an oncoming crisis. If we feel threatened or insecure, most of us pay deeper attention to what’s happening and may try to control something that is not within our control. Jesus seems to have a different way of living that deals with both the present moment and its uncertainty, as well as the uncertain moments at the end of our life.
Jesus encourages us to pay attention to this present moment and respond to the promptings of the spirit of God in this moment. Jesus teaches us that if we practice that attentiveness and preparedness for every present moment, we will be ready when our own earthly life ends. For most of us who live a very comfortable and secure life, we spend a lot of our time living in the future and thinking about possibilities, rather than being present in this moment. We have to live this present moment with our eyes and hearts set on the future. We sometimes walk blindly through day after day without paying attention to what is happening. We fail to be in touch with what is happening in front of us and instead pay attention to what doesn’t even exist yet.
Catholic spiritual practices are rich with examples of how to develop awareness in the present moment. Many people practice centering prayer, which allows us to use our bodies minds and spirits to be attentive and open to the movement of the spirit within us and outside of us at this very moment. It heightens our senses and sensibilities and deepens an awareness of our surroundings as well. We notice sounds and sights and actions around us that might’ve gone past us if we weren’t centering our hearts and minds. Many also practice meditation, which allows us to empty our minds and hearts of the string of consciousness that happens in each of us and instead focus on giving our lives over to God. None of us can do this perfectly, but if we practice it on a regular basis we can get better at it. Even the best of us have wandering thoughts and images that enter our minds as we’re praying and meditating. Those are not reasons to quit meditation or prayer, but actually reasons to continue it as we try to get better at focusing on the voice and movement of the spirit of God within us.
Starting the day with some sort of morning prayer, which allows us to consciously present the day to God and give Him the control, helps us to see centered in reality. Ending each day with an examination of conscience and a litany of gratitude to God for all the blessings we have received helps us be conscious again of the present moment and the reality of our lives.
Let’s try this week to live within this present moment, to be doing the practices that allow us to keep the flame alive in each of us and choose to live in this present moment and know that it is enough. Enjoy this present moment because in reality that is all we have.