In last week’s bulletin article, I introduced a threefold theme proposed by both Pope Francis and Pope St. John Paul II, that we as Christians are encouraged to: 1) Look to the past with gratitude; 2) Live the present with passion; and 3) Embrace the future with hope. In this second reflection in the series, we will reflect on how to live the present with passion.
As I mentioned last week, it can be easy for us to get stuck in the past, remembering our faults and failures, those missed opportunities for doing good. Our focusing on the past is not always remembering our failures, though. Sometimes we focus on the good memories of the past, what we were once able to do, the opportunities we had, and we can get struck wishing those days were back. The same can apply to the future. We can become paralyzed thinking about what might or might not happen in the days, months, and years ahead. The uncertainty of the future might frighten us, causing us to tun in on ourselves and so do nothing. Or, the future might excite us, causing us to want to get to what lies ahead as soon as possible, ignoring our present obligations and needs. By focusing too much on the past or the future, we have little energy to dedicate to the present, and it is only in the present that we are able to actually do anything. When considering this tension, I am often reminded of the following anecdote: “Why worry about the past which you cannot change, and the future which may never come. Live in the present!” This is very good advice, and very much rooted in our Christian outlook.
The overarching theme for the end of Ordinary Time and the beginning of Advent is the necessity of being prepared, not so much for the celebration of Christmas, but for the Second Coming of Christ which will come at an unknown day and unknown hour. With that in mind, the best thing to do to be prepared is to be attentive to how we are living our lives in the here are now. Tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year should never be something we say when it comes to living our Catholic faith. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so now is the time to live as disciples of Jesus. And not just live as His followers in name only, but to live our lives intentionally and passionately.
There is a line from the Prophet Isaiah that is used on the First Sunday of Advent in the Year B Cycle of Readings which applies to this very well: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we might be mindful of you in our ways” (Is 64:4). To adapt this line to match our theme, we can say something similar to the Lord: “Would that you might find us living our faith passionately when you come to us, whenever and however that might be”
During this Advent season, this can be a good topic on which to reflect. Are we too focused on the past or the future, such that we are not living the present well? It does not have to be this way. We can make the conscious decision now to live in the present by making our faith the foundation for all of our thoughts, words, and actions, letting the love of Christ enflame our hearts so that we will in turn love Him and our neighbor with charity and mercy, and so to be truly prepared to meet Him when He comes.