Am I Present?

“I Am,” says God. God did not say, “I Was,” or “I Will Be.” In saying “I Am,” God is saying, “I am present.”

Am I present? Or do I live in the past, replaying old scenes, clinging to old wounds?

Am I present? Or do I live in the future, chained to useless fantasies and baseless fears?

God is beyond time and always present. But we look away. We look back and are hurt. We look ahead and are terrorized. In this present moment, God is facing us…facing me. In this present moment, we will no longer be victims of the past or be paralyzed by the future. In this present moment we can face God. In this present moment we can encounter God.

Oh God, help me be in this present moment. Oh God, help me see in this present moment You. Oh God, help me see You in all I do, in all my encounters, in all the people I meet, in all of creation.

We live in a noisy world where we live noisy lives. We are drowning in a flood of words, nonstop talking and texting, endless opinions on everything that pretty much amounts to nothing of any real value. There are too many words. Our words and actions, sadly, are often not in harmony. We speak without thinking; we listen without hearing. When we turn off the TV or radio, we can hear the birds. When we have less to listen to, we hear more. The same thing applies to our sight which today takes in a dizzying array of images, mostly unpleasant or unnecessary images, which are constantly hurled at us via a wide range of electronic devises that keep us perpetually entertained and distracted from the essential things of life. The frenetic pace of life leaves no time or space for stillness and silence. In the noise and busyness of our lives, it is virtually impossible to encounter God. Even if we make time for God, we discover so many divergent paths to God we can get lost. It seems to me that most theological talk is woefully inadequate before the awesome mystery of the divine. Thomas Merton helps us understand how silence is the best way to approach this mystery. The monk wrote: “But in moments of silence, of meditation, of enlightenment and peace, one learns to live in the atmosphere of solitude even in the midst of crowds. …One opens the inner door of his heart to the infinite silences of the Spirit, out of whose abysses loves wells up without fail and gives itself to all. In His silence, the meaning of every sound is finally clear.”

Thomas Merton lived in a time before personal computers, the Internet and cell phones, in a time when multi-tasking was not part of our consciousness. Today, if we are not doing at least two things at the same time, we think we are not being productive. We talk on the phone while doing the dishes, we eat while watching television, we text message while driving and we work while on vacation. Our attention is split, our time fragmented. I had this thought this morning that I was running out of time, which is not such an uncommon thought for someone my age. Moments after thinking that, I came across these timely words from Merton: “Plenty of time! Plenty of time! No breaking your neck to get things done before the next thing happens.” It is hard to find God when we are looking for so much else, constantly on the prowl for more.

This day, a pure gift from God, is mine, spread out before me to do with as I wish. Birds are chirping in the yard. I hear them, hear their song of praise. Today I pray for the grace to slow down, do one thing at a time, to be attentive to what life is saying to me, to be mindful of my own being. Being frenetic, even frenetic in doing good things and helping others, is not healthy for either body or soul. I

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