Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Present Moment

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.  (Psalm 24:6, adapted for psalm response)

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain - and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot - and so it is.  You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Luke 12:54-56)

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call to Him while He is still near.
Today is the day and now the proper hour
to forsake our sinful lives and turn to the Lord.
(Seek the Lord, Roc O’Connor, SJ, based on Isaiah 55:6-9)

About five or six years ago I was visiting friends in Arizona.  We were driving back toward the Phoenix area from the Grand Canyon, when suddenly the friend driving said, “I think a haboob (dust storm) is forming.”  I looked around and everything looked okay to me.  So I asked, “How can you tell?”  I was directed to look at the horizon slightly to the left of some landmark.  I still couldn’t see the change he was pointing to.  But then I’d never seen a dust storm, and I don’t live in an area where there’s much call for that kind of knowledge.  Just a few seconds later the haboob warnings were posted!

Jesus, in talking to the crowds, mentions this ability to look around and predict the weather.  Many people in his day were farmers or shepherds.  Their livelihoods depended on being able to look at the color of the sky; the shape, color and movement of the clouds, the smell of the air or the direction of the wind and know what the day would bring weather-wise.

So, why, he asks us, are you so able to do that and so undiscerning about the present time?  Think about what it takes to predict the weather (without the help of the Weather Channel).  It takes attentiveness.  It takes practice and experience.   I looked at exactly the same sky my friend was observing.  Because he knew what to look for, he saw what I missed. 

Maybe part of the answer to Jesus’ question is that we’re not very attentive to the moment in which we find ourselves.  We’ve got our heads down, texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook and attending to our emails.  We’ve got our days and nights crammed full of activities.   The ears and eyes of our hearts are not open.  We are plain too preoccupied with things that, ultimately, don’t hold much importance.

Farmers in Jesus’ time were skilled at knowing what the weather would hold because they had a great deal of practice and experience in reading the signs in the sky, the clouds, and the breezes.  Maybe the rest of the answer to Jesus’ question is that we don’t practice discerning the present moment very often.  We lack experience and so we’re often not very good at it.

The present moment is what Roc O’Connor’s song lyrics are about.  Today, this very second, Jesus is near, just waiting for us to open our hearts to his love, mercy, and forgiveness.  The present moment offers the chance to put everything else aside and to turn to the Lord.

How frustrated Jesus must have felt at times!  He came to be one of us, to share in our good and bad times, to experience life as we know it, with the exception of sin.  The crowd he addresses in today’s Gospel reading seems oblivious to the presence of the Son of God in their midst.  The miracles Jesus has performed, the forgiving of sins, the healing of the sick have not made much of a dent in their sensibilities.  This was their chance.  This is our chance…to seize the moment and turn to the Lord!                                                                                                       
How do we become more attentive?  How do we gain practice and experience?  The best way I know is through prayer.  Carve out a time and space every single day to talk and listen to Jesus.  Put yourself in his presence.  Review your day with the Lord.  For what were you grateful?  What seemed like a blessing?  Did something happen that hurt you?  Did you regret something you said or did?  Share it all with the Lord.  Then pick one aspect of your day to pray from.  Open the eyes and ears of your heart to what Jesus might be saying to you or doing in your life.

If you do this day after day, month after month, and year after year, you will be as practiced at discerning the present moment as any first-century farmer was at forecasting the weather.  And you will be much more aware of the Lord’s presence in your life.


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