Tag Archives: Eternal now

Offering and Living Each Day

[My wise spiritual director pointed out that I have the intellectual prayer down pat, but need a lot of work on the “Prayer of the Heart,” the friendship, union and companionship with God that comes from a deepening of love.  Therefore, he has suggested a couple of texts, and set me to keeping a journal as I wander through them.  These are the fourteenth day’s thoughts.]

Devotional practices renders all my daily actions please to You, God. I am not where AL* was in his spiritual journey when he wrote this. Nor am I a 17th cent. priest. However, Jesus, help me glean what works for me and leave the rest right now, perhaps to be returned to later.

One of the most obvious things that he mentions that I, not surprisingly, neglect, is that while I offer to God my day when I rise, instead of “asking Him to help me by His grace” as AL suggests and my own sullied experience would commend, I go blithely on, thinking that I can do it all myself. Duh! Only with Your help can I do anything! So how would I have the chutzpah to think that in this monumental task of making sure that all my actions, words and thoughts this day are in conformity with Your will as well as being directed to You, I would be able to pull it off myself. Quite the epitome of pride, control and foolishness! Help me, God, to remember to get with the program and follow up such a wonderfully naive childlike offering with a hearty dose of humble pie, acknowledging from the get-go that I am totally and unequivocally incapable of doing this on my own and must always and continuously ask for and rely on Your help. Take my hand and show me how to do what You want me to do, just as You would a little child, so that I don’t hurt myself [through sin] and am able to do it at all.

The other thing that AL brings up which is timeless in its relevance is to resolve to live during this day as if it were the last day of my life. Not only could it be, if, in Your Divine Providence, You call me home today, but also in the general scheme of things, this is not only “the first day of the rest of my life,” it is also the only eternal Now that I have. As the saying goes, the past is no more, the future is yet to be, all I have is the Now. So in that sense, it not only should be lived “as if” it were the last day of my life, it is also the first as well as the only day of my life which is real, factual, and not a memory or imagination.It would and does therefore behoove me to live it as if it were the only day of my life.

But again, while I can resolve such, without Your constant help and direction, Your hand in mine, I am inevitably going to blow it in some form or other. Therefore, help me take a cue from You and Your mother and ask, seek, knock so that You may do unto me today according to Your will,…and then I will have achieved my resolve and offered a good day, in the same way a little child has “built” his own sandcastle or “put together” his truck. Amen. Alleluia!!!


*Alphonsus Liguori, How to Converse with God,Translated by Fr. L. X. Aubin, C.S.S.R. [Charlotte, Tan Books, 2005/13]

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An Aside: On Meditating while “Saying the Rosary”

There are a myriad of ways to “say the rosary,” that is to say all the prayers while contemplating on the various mysteries. While on my own I may not be able to come up with a new way to approach today’s mystery for the umpteenth hundred time, if I start out asking the help of Mary and the Holy Spirit in offering my prayer to the Father for His glory, they pull out of their bag of tricks amazing insights each and every time.

For example, one such that they shared with me is an Allegory of the Sorrowful Mysteries. You need to pull way, way, way back to see this one, and go with the flow. And please realize that my description will not in any way do justice to the real contemplation. Nor does it plumb even the shallows of these mysteries, for that is what they are, not just human, but Divine Mysteries, played out on our human stage. Therefore, we shall never be able to grok them in their entirety.

The Agony in the Garden is just what it says, an individual’s “struggle for victory in the games”[1] of life. Jesus prayer and our prayer is to avert the inevitable in one form or another. It is for relief from this constant struggle and especially for the much more horrific ultimate struggles yet to come. If I follow Christ, if I take up my cross daily, then I, too, must end in ultimate obedience to the Father’s will, no matter where or to what it leads.

The Trial before the Jews[2] from an eschatological or end-time perspective, is the continuous avoidance and denunciation of God by the so-called righteous. They will not recognize who Jesus really is, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, until ultimately He comes again in power and majesty, our Judge and our Savior, the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. [Mk 14:62] This rejection, this mangling of the gift of revelation in an attempt to fit our meager understandings, our petty power schemes, will be reenacted over and over again until the ultimate revelation. And it will be amazing who will not get it, who will not truly believe, who will so distort the image of the true God as to make idols of their own imagination. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” [Mt 7:21-23] Lord, help me not fall into that trap.

The Trial before the Gentiles, also from an eschatological perspective, is the continual lack of recognition and acceptance by society and in particular, by those political and social powers in society of the reality of God, the reality of Jesus as the King of Creation, of the Universe, of the Cosmos. Like Pilate, even understanding, though accompanied by a refusal and rejections of the implications thereof, will come in stages, first of Jesus, of God as a criminal without charge other than being what the Jews did not want, “What charge do you bring [against] this man?”…“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” [Jn 18:29-30] Separation of Church and State has its good points, e.g. non-interference, the freedom to practice one’s religion, but it also has its bad points, e.g. by implication, separation of Morals and State, Conscience and State, Divinely instituted ethics and State, regardless of the fact that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them. [Rom 2:15] The State and society also recognizes that the Church, by giving bread, hope and healing to the masses, he threatened their ability to rule, their status quo. Note the echo of Jesus first temptation in desert just after his Baptism before the beginning of his ministry . [Mt 4:3-4]

Then Pilate acknowledges Him as a King, but “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” [Jn 18:36] an echo of the third temptation. [Mt 4:8-10] Finally, the Jews tell Pilate: We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God, [Mt 19:7] the final echo of the second temptation.[3] [Mt 4:5-7] [4]

The Carrying of the Cross Here, Jesus has already invited us to join Him. If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Following Jesus requires self-denial and the steadfastness in accepting life as God’s will unfolding one moment at a time, one joy, one sorrow at a time. This is the cross, the constant fluctuation, the control in God’s hands, the suffering, derision, rejection, being counted among the outcast, the marginalized. We will be called upon to witness to Christ, to testify with our actions, our words, our thoughts, our way of life that we follow Him. To be strong, resilient, faithful in His service is the life to which we are called.

But I cannot carry my cross alone. I will stumble, fall, sink beneath its weight, the weight of my sins, my sinfulness, the sinfulness of the world. Humanities realization of our own frailty may explain the addition of the three falls in the Stations of the Cross. Though not based on Scripture, these resonate with the reality of our own experience in carrying our crosses. We will need the help of our loved ones, our family, our friends, the Church, even strangers as in Jesus case. From Veronicas who wipe our face to Simons who help carry our cross, our journey up Calvary’s hill of life must be populated with caring strangers who lend us a hand on our way.

The Crucifixion The final scene of each life. The top of Calvary. Death come to us all. And no matter what form it may take, to the person involved, it is her or his Calvary. It is time to wrap up one’s life. It is time to forgive and be forgiven. It is time to come to terms with heaven and hell. It is time to hand over all to others. It is time to put loved ones for whom we have cared in the hands of God and of each other. It is time to confront God, ask Him where He is and demand He come. It is time to eat and drink one last time this side of eternity. It is time to place myself in the only hands that can lead me through the door of death into life eternal. It is a time of sadness, yes, but also joy. It is a time of faith. It is a time of hope. It is a time of love. It is time for time to become eternity. This is the Eternal Now.

[1] The original meaning in the Greek according to the online etymology dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php? term=agony

[2] I have substituted this and the “Trial before the Gentiles” in the second and third sorrowful mystery slots to give a more complete Scriptural recounting of all that went on in the passion, not just the particularly brutal Scourging and the sadistic Crowning which, though certainly worthy of contemplation on their own merit, are only parts of the event.

[3] Luke concludes his version of the temptations in the desert with the teaser: When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. [Lk 4:13] Luke reminds us of this in the Garden: this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53]

[4] The abrupt ending of this decade without satisfactory closure is both realistic and a lesson in prayer. The underlying prayers come to an end and, according to them, I am to move on to consider the next mystery. It is rather like a museum tour where the guide rushes you through from exhibit to exhibit, but you paid for the tour so you feel compelled to keep up. But, in reality, there is no hurry. It is best to take Ignatius’ recommendation to heart: “I will remain quietly meditating upon the point in which I have found what I desire, without any eagerness to go on till I have been satisfied.”
Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Locations 341-342). Kindle Edition.

Fear Not!

I have lots of fears…instinctive, hard wired fears are knee-jerk self-preservation fears: against earthquakes, fires, floods, guns, terrorists, cancer, hell itself. Even Jesus seems to have “feared” and asked His Father to remove the cup of suffering and death from Him. I think it is safe to say he would not be fully human if He did not experience some of these hard-wired fears. These may be knee-jerk reaction fears, but they are in response to real things that can hurt, harm, devastate, kill me. Self-preservation kicks in and fear urges me to flee or fight.

Evidence of this type of fear is rampant in the Hebrew text. A good example occurs when God is making His covenant with Israel through Moses. There, He makes it abundantly clear of His power and might: Now as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the shofar and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled.[1] [Ex 20: 18a] They were even afraid of Moses face after he had seen God; they insisted that he wear a veil. [Ex 34:30-35]

However, Moses’ explains that this instinctive fear is a test, a reminder of the consequences of not obeying God: “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.”[Ex 20:20] Here, my temporary, instinctive human fear is given a salutary reason; the fear comes from God for my benefit, because He loves me and knows He needs to get my attention, to strengthen my faith, the increase my trust, to draw me back to His love.

God is with me always, I do not need to truly fear such passing occurrences. Everything that happens to me is within the loving purview of God’s providence for me. Jesus reminds me: do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna, [Mt 10:28] which is precisely what martyrs did and do…terribly frightening prospect in the abstract, but, with faith, I am promised that I will be Spirit reinforced and strengthened in the moment.

“Fear of the Lord” is a constant refrain running through the Hebrew Scripture.[2] This Fear engendered by confrontation with the omnipotence, the overwhelming majesty, the Holiness of the Divine, is a combination of awe and reverence with a realization that this is the God against whom I can and have sinned and before whom I must stand and account for my actions. Such fear is a grace given us so that I am given a constant reminder of God’s presence and a perpetual restraint on my propensity to sin, the omnipresent realization of God’s Justice.

This “Fear of the Lord” is the fear to which God calls Abram before he makes the first covenant with him: Do not fear, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great. [Gen 15:1] God puts Abram’s reaction to the unknown, to a confrontation with God, to the consequences of obeying God in context, in perspective.

This “Fear not!” is a frequent refrain of Jesus.[3] Many of the events prompting his statement combine the “Fear of the Lord” reaction to Jesus’ manifestation of his divinity with instinctive self-preservation reaction to perceived “threats,” e.g. ghost-like appearances of Jesus walking on the water, all of a sudden appearing though locked doors, or Him being transfigured into the Christ with Moses and Elijah.

Though Jesus is constantly telling me to “Fear not,” He can say it all He wants; but sometimes it just doesn’t register…my ongoing fear is that I am constantly being called by Him: “‘Come!’ [Mt 14:29] get up, get out of your boat of complacency, my zone of conformity, of control, of comfort, and start walking on the water, start carrying that cross, start following Me.”

When it comes to God, my relationship with fear is very complicated. Letting go of the familiar is tough enough. But what Jesus, what the Father, what the Holy Spirit ask of me each moment of my life is to leave the past behind, to forget the future and to step off into the Eternal Now, the Kingdom of Divine Providence, to encounter God’s perpetual choice.

Like Indiana Jones when confronted with the unseen bridge to the cave of the Holy Grail, each step seems to be a step into oblivion. Each is a step of faith, a step into the trompe l’oeil that is God, the solid stone upon which my faith must be built, upon which rests all of creation, all of being itself. He hides within, beneath and above the next flag stone, the next blade of grass, the next tread on the stairs to eternity, bearing me up, urging me on, assuring me of His unconditional presence. His unconditional love holds my hand as I, with trepidation, take one step, then another forward.

When I believe, I cross without fear; when I doubt, when I, in fear and trembling, look over the edge into the abyss of nothingness, when I fall prey to the skepticism, the cynicism, the disbelief of the world, I panic, stumble, fall.

Help me, Lord, confront the instinctual fears with which You challenge me daily, knowing these are as much reminders of Your love and care for me as the brilliant sunrise and the flowers of the field. Help me to cling to that salutary “Fear of the Lord” which helps me to remain in awe and reverence when the splendors of Your creation become too commonplace and my awareness of Your presences is dulled by familiarity. Keep my attention on You and not the roaring clamoring texts of the passing world, the wind of viral opinion nor the waves of climate change, corporate greed and oppression, lone gunmen, and racial and religious violence. Instead, help me to heed You and fear not was I step off the complacency of control, pride, hubris and ignorance onto the invisible but sure footing of Your providential Eternal Now. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] 120 times per listings in the Concordance of the New American Bible, Archive, Vatican, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_FA7.HTM

[3] 20 times in the Gospels plus 7 additional times in the Letters and Revelation. Ibid.