“All time belongs to him; and all the ages.”
These words from the blessing of the Paschal candle during the Easter Vigil are still resonating in me as we enter these slower-paced days of summer. If all time belongs to God, why do we feel as if we never have enough time to do everything?
Why are we always running from one thing to the next? When there is finally a reprieve, why do we feel so restless, turning to something for distraction or entertainment?
Whether we have a lazy or busy summer ahead of us, it’s good to pause and examine not just how we live, but more importantly, where we live. There’s only one place in this world where we can meet God and that is the Present.
In “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis portrays a senior demon coaching a junior demon in the art of coercing a soul with various tactics and temptations. If we do not want to be overcome in this spiritual battle for our souls, we must first acknowledge that we are in such a battle, and second, be on guard against the known tactics of the enemy of our souls. Lewis highlights the demon’s strategy in which they try to get us away from living in the present moment. Instead, we are tempted to dwell in the Past, beating ourselves up with guilt and looking back with wishful thinking that, “things aren’t like they used to be.”
This particular tactic of the enemy seems fairly identifiable in our lives. However, the enemy often tends to use an alternative proposal to sway us from the present and get us to live in the Future. When we attempt to live in the Future, which is not actually possible since it has not happened yet, we will quickly succumb to anxiety and to a host of vices that take us out of relationship with God and others.
We can combat these temptations by striving to grow in virtue. The Past offers us valuable wisdom from which we can glean knowledge. This requires humility to admit that we are in need of such wisdom and courage to admit our past failures.
Ultimately, the Past is looked at with gratitude for the gifts received and the wisdom that is gained.
Lewis advises that God wants us to think of the Future in so much as we are required to so that we may respond to the needs of the Present. Planning acts of charity or justice are duties that can only be carried out in the Present. Lewis also cautions against giving the Future our hearts because it is not a place to rest our hope. The constant anxiety of this present age is perpetuated by our need to control the Future while escaping from the Present. Exercising the theological virtue of hope elevates our view of the Future into Eternity.
How do we as Christians avoid simply existing in the Present? Lewis offers this point: that while we live in time, God has destined us for Eternity. Eternity is not limitless time because God has no beginning or end. He is the Alpha and Omega.
Time is measured by progress, moment by moment. God is unchanging because He is. God who sustains all things, Who sees all of time and history in one glance, desires to meet us in the reality of the Present. “For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity,” notes Lewis. It is crucial to live in the Present because it is the only place we can receive the eternal love of God in this world. Practice being present to God who is always present to us by adoring Jesus in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. Put down the phones and make eye contact with those who are before us. Finally, ask for the grace to be more attentive to the presence of God and others, knowing that Eternity is opening to us here and now.