The Practice of the Present Moment
By Helen Young
A Morning Offering
God, I offer myself to Thee- To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!
It is tempting in difficult times to fret about the past and to worry about the future. In pandemic times it is also tempting to be wary of the unknown in the present. All of these are natural reactions to situations when we feel uncertain and fearful, when it feels like the sand beneath our feet won’t stop shifting and may in fact turn into quicksand. But what if the sand is not that on which we are to focus? Perhaps the focus is to be on the beautiful sunrise or the sparkling water? Both the sunrise and sparking water will be gone in an instant, and we will have missed the beauty of the moment if we only see the sand at our feet. In order to see the colors of the sky or the dancing sun on the water we must be paying attention in the moment. If we are distracted by the past or worrying about what comes next, we will miss the beauty.
Our Heavenly Father created the beautiful world in which we live as our temporary home, our eternal home is with Him forever in Heaven. And Heaven will be ever so much more beautiful, brilliant, enveloping, full of so much more love than we can comprehend. The feeling of being pierced in the heart with love of God that we experience when prayer is fruitful, or when we are fully engaged in Mass, or when having a meaningful conversation with a dear friend or spouse, or when we do something we love like painting or writing or another creative hobby, these are but a tiny glimpse of the Immense Love that will be the reality of Heaven.
How do we experience these glimpses of Heaven but in the moment? They are powerful because we are in the moment, present to reality of that exact spot in time. If we are not paying attention, if we become distracted, the moment is lost and like the fleeting sunrise, we will miss it. All this is to say that God, who is outside of time and space, is in the present moment. In every single present moment we can be with Him while we walk here on earth. But we must be paying attention to Him.
What if the present moment involves suffering? God became man and entered into the physical world of time and space to save us. In the person of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, God experienced everything we experience. Every feeling, physical, mental and emotional. There is nowhere we can walk that Jesus has not walked. When we suffer, we can stop in that moment, and come into the Presence of Jesus, and offer our suffering joined to his, for the salvation of the whole world, or for a specific intention. God is with us in every moment, in joy and in suffering, we just to tune into His frequency. And practice makes it easier to find Him.
What does this look like in our daily lives? A great way to start is when you first wake up, pay attention to how you feel and what you sense. Thank God for the sleep and for waking you up for a new day. Then begin your day with prayer time in the morning, and in the prayer time begin with a Morning Offering. In the Morning Offering we acknowledge God as Divine Providence, and ask for and hope for the openness to turn our will over to His Divine Will and then ask for the guidance and ability to live out what God wills for us and those we encounter in our day.
As we journey through the day that the Lord has given us, we can frequently turn our hearts and minds to Him, to check in, to ask again what His will is in the moment, and to express our love and gratitude to Him for all that He has provided for us – everything! The air we breathe, the lungs to breathe the air, the earth we walk on, the brains to control the bodies we live in, our souls which can connect with other people in love and with our Majestic Triune God in love.
What to do when we forget about God and get caught up in the daily chores and routines of our lives? When you realize you have not checked in with God, do just that. Stop for a moment, and say thank you again and enjoy the Presence of God in the moment. And again, ask for His guidance and protection. And so, our days become many moments of touching base with the One who loves us because He made us, He loves us unconditionally and eternally. When we check in with God moment by moment we are picking Him before ourselves and our own selfish wills. When we check in with God, we are able to avoid sin because we stop to see where God is before we act. When we check in with God, we are able to love others like He does, because we can first experience His love for us, and that love is so abundant it flows out into others.
Staying in the present moment with God, keeping our eyes on Him, takes practice. Over time, if we keep trying, we will spend more of our day paying attention to Him and His will and focus less on ourselves. This is the daily path to Union with God. In this way we are open to receive the abundant grace that God is pouring out all the time. In order to receive the grace we must: be paying attention to Him, have open hearts to receive the grace, and have open minds to understand His will and what that looks like in the world. God’s aim is always to bring all of us into His loving embrace. He desires that each of us who know Him and love Him take the good news of the Gospel and the Light out into the world. The daily way to light the fire within is the practice of the present moment – checking into the Eternal Flame all through out the day helps us to keep the fire bright and strong. With our torches lit we can then bring the Light of Christ to our brothers and sisters.
“One of the essential conditions of interior freedom is the ability to live in the present moment. For one thing, it is only then that we can exercise freedom. We have no hold on the past—we can’t change the smallest bit of it. People sometimes try to relive past events considered failures (“I should have done this . . . I should have said that . . .”) but those imaginary scenarios are merely dreams: it is not possible to backtrack. The only free act we can make in regard to the past is to accept it just as it was and leave it trustingly in God’s hands.” - Fr Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom, p.81
“We may spend our whole lives waiting to live. Thus we risk not fully accepting the reality of our present lives. Yet, what guarantee is there that we won’t be disappointed when the long-awaited time arrives? Meanwhile we don’t put our hearts sufficiently into today, and so miss graces we should be receiving. Let us live each moment to the full, not worrying about whether time is going quickly or slowly but welcoming everything given us moment by moment.” - Fr Jacques Philippe Interior Freedom, pp.90-91