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Feb 02, 2021 676 Deacon Doug McManaman, Canada
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The Power of Now

What’s your most memorable moment?
Ever wondered what made it so rich and vivid?

Down Memory Lane

On the spur of the moment, I recently decided to visit a good priest friend of mine. My friend is getting on in age and it is difficult to know just how much time he has left. Lately, I have been thinking more about time; for we have been friends for over 30 years, and I realize how many wonderful moments we shared that have since drifted from my memory, some of which I can recover if I concentrate—or if something suddenly brings it to mind. These memories are of the many times I visited him over the years in the various parishes to which he was assigned.

What strikes me about these memories is precisely how much they leave out, how much has been forgotten. There is tremendous wealth in the present moment which quickly drifts into the past. After a while, most of these moments are simply lost to memory. But remembering those moments allows us to become consciously aware of what we had only subconsciously sensed in the present moment—a wealth, a sense of blessing, a richness that we would like to recover.

Time is short, and so I decided to drive up to see him. I thought to myself that this night would also be a moment filled with hidden riches that would one day be a distant memory. A large part of that present moment, when past, will be lost. What is retained will reveal something that was hidden when that moment was a “now,” like a hidden treasure in a field (Matthew 13: 44-46).

Center of Life

What makes these moments with my friend so memorable, I wondered to myself? What is it that gives them wealth? That is not difficult for me to answer. It is that which binds our friendship. Generally, friendships are based on common qualities and interests. Some common interests and characteristics are trivial, and so the friendship based on them is trivial. But our friendship is not trivial, so what non-triviality do we have in common? The answer is our love for Christ. He is at the center. What we have in common is our love for the Catholic faith, for the Mass, for Confession, our love for the theological unfolding of that faith. When we are together, we spend a great deal of time discussing theological ideas, the implications of certain theological insights, homilies, great books, and current issues— political or otherwise—in light of the principles of the faith. All of it stems from what we love most, which is Christ.

And who is Christ? He is eternity joined to time. As Boethius defined it, eternity is the “whole, simultaneous, and perfect possession of interminable life.” God is eternal; we are not, for we do not possess the temporal moments of our life perfectly and simultaneously, but imperfectly, partially, and sequentially. And so, life in time is very much characterized by imperfection and dissatisfaction. The heart desires to possess the whole perfectly, the perfect possession of our own life and interminable (eternal) life. In short, we desire eternity; we desire God. Hence, what is written in Ecclesiastes is true: “All is vanity of vanities, a chasing after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Life, here and now, lived out in time cannot give us what we desire. But when eternity entered into time, the eternal Word became flesh (John 1:14). As a result, time is joined to and contained by something that can give us what the heart desires, namely eternity.

Eternity in the Present

We desire the Word in Whom we see the Father and in Whom we begin to understand the mystery of ourselves, gathering the fragments of our life into a single whole. We desire Christ. When our friendships and our day-to-day life are centered on Him, rooted in Him, focused on Him, time becomes incalculably meaningful. The meaning contained in the present moment overflows or exceeds what the limited present can contain, and memory gives us a glimpse of it, a glimpse of something we knew and experienced at the time but were not fully and consciously able to articulate. It was an unconscious or subconscious possession, because in joining Himself to a human nature, the Son as it were joined Himself to every man. What we desire is within us, for “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 21), and it is outside of us, joined to every moment of time.

To discover Christ is to discover the mystery of eternity in the present moment. To lose touch with Christ is to lose touch with the richness of the present moment, and that loss gives rise to an anxious desire for rest. We begin to live out of the past, often out of past resentments, and without living fully in the present, we live for a future that does not yet exist and that may never exist. We may die a year after we have achieved everything we set out to achieve, die perhaps in the living room of the beautiful estate we built for ourselves with savings accumulated for our retirement, which was cut short by contingencies we were unable to control, such as cancer, or a vehicle accident, or a brain aneurysm. Because we did not live for Christ we failed to discover the beauty and richness of the present moment. Instead we looked for beauty and wealth in what did not yet exist, namely the future. To fail to find Christ is to fail. A failed life is a wasted life. Stop and smell the roses is a tired cliche, but the living rose proclaims Christ crowned with thorns, and its perfume announces the fragrant beauty that a life becomes when His blood runs through our veins.

Dear Lord, I thank you for this present moment and for Your presence in my heart. Help me to leave the past into Your mercy, and the future into Your hands. May I strive to find the beauty of living this moment for You. Amen.

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Deacon Doug McManaman

Deacon Doug McManaman is a retired teacher of religion and philosophy in Southern Ontario. He lectures on Catholic education at Niagara University. His ministry as a deacon is to those who suffer from mental illness.

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