Right Now

Right Now

Looking at the Breviary I was holding, I thought about having owned this book for over ten years. I purchased the set while in diaconate formation. My mind has been drifting over the past three decades lately as I mull a retirement date. Thirty-three years as a chemist doesn’t seem that long ago and yet, recalling all the signature events that have happened over that time calibrates this feeling back to a longer dimension. Perhaps for the first time, living in the “present moment” became understandable for me.

“Living in the present moment” was always a cliché that I mentally accepted but never discerned. During this Breviary moment, I began to ponder what the meaning of this really was to me. Thoughts like this do not come readily for me. Often, it takes days-and-weeks to sort out my deliberations. I realized that I must be somewhere in the midst of a “good discernment” when I noticed and laughed as Van Halen’s “Right Now” played on the radio. Coincidence? I’ve stopped believing in them. Besides, knowing that anytime Eddie Van Halen is playing guitar on my radio, the volume will rise faster than my wife likes it. (Funny, this is not an issue when Taylor Swift or “Dan + Shay” is playing…)

Life, it seems, is simply a series of “present moments.” 

Our past is but a memory and our future is not guaranteed. All we have is “Right Now.” Perhaps that is why age sneaks up on us while we still feel no different than decades ago. Living in the past is silly – it is gone. While “history” may repeat itself, our personal journey on earth does not. For the fortunate, God gives us seven or eight decades to get it right. It is hard to imagine a God who lives in an eternal now knowing our past, present and future still loving us as who we are today. Yet, He does. He is ready to move on while we let the ghosts of yesterday define us. God dwells in the “now.” We need to move on as well. Remembering our past is simply valuable in reminding us of who we are today. We are the sum of those experiences. Each victory and loss has built our character. However, it is still only today’s breath that counts. 

“Right now,” the present moment, is the time to break the chains that hold us down.

We cannot break the chains, but Jesus can. The chains of fear, resentment, sorrow are not from God. Burying the chains of errors in relationships, hurt, hatred and sadness does not free us to live in the present moment. These emotions are signs that we have veered from our path in trying to live the Gospel. Our free will opened the door to evils. In one way or another, those evils have bound us from living in the freedom and joy that God intended. Sin binds us and forgiveness sets us free to try again.

Freedom requires work on our part. Saying the words “I’m sorry” is not hard. How often do we either not mean them or worse, resist saying them at all? Forgiving those who’ve hurt us is often too challenging for us to engage. We become content with the righteousness within us. It grows too incrementally for us to notice as it binds our freedom. This binding leads to masking the loss of joy by artificial means: drugs, alcohol flesh, etc. Maybe we cannot forgive those who hurt us. Jesus can. Look at the Cross and ask for His help in forgiving.

Evil wins until we realize that forgiving others is less about them than it is about us. The anger, resentment, fear and hurt we feel wells up in you and me, not the other person. Keeping it inside us is a self-inflicted wound. We are bound while they are seemingly unaffected. It is holding a gun to our own head while shouting “Stop, or I’ll shoot!”

And yet, isn’t that what many of us have buried inside us?

Unknowingly, we go about our lives while all the time indifferent to the chains that weigh us down. No wonder we do not enjoy the present moment! For too long, I fooled myself in that I prayed with words but not my heart. If my heart was present in prayer, it was simply because something was not going my way or for the way I wanted for someone else. I prayed for God to listen to me… 180° from where my prayer was meant to be.

So how do we get to the present moment?

Freedom comes from “cleaning the slate.” This begins with sitting down in a quiet place, turning off the cell phone and any distractions. Take time to calm down and relax. Next, ask Jesus to show us where we are bound. Discern the emotions we have had in the past week and write them down. This is a deep dive into who we are and what we are feeling at the core. Take an honest look at each emotion – where were we hurt and how did we hurt another? Be honest – no judging, justifying or making excuses. Simply embrace the emotion and discern what underlying experiences contribute to this experience. Notice how our body is reacting to the emotion.

It is common for today’s emotions to be rooted in the past. Look at the experience. Why is it still relevant? What baggage have we carried with us from years ago? This list of emotions which we have both caused and received are the doors that have been opened to binding us. God did not open these doors, we did. However, only He can close them again. Jesus wants to walk with us on this journey but we have to invite him and, we must want to be free ourselves. Sometimes, we need to break the delusion that there is happiness or justification in the binding emotion.

To break the chains requires us to both forgive and ask forgiveness, just as we do each time we pray the Our Father. We must have courage in knowing that the God who created us in love wants us to be free. Take the list to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For each emotion, state aloud the hurt and pain the we have caused; ask for forgiveness and freedom from Jesus. Speak aloud the pain and emotions we have let have control of us and ask Jesus for the strength to forgive the root of each of these emotions. After we acknowledge the hurt and the hurting, ask Jesus to break the chains.  

That is “Day One” of living in the present moment. Embrace with joy the calm in your body. Embrace with gratitude the blessings of your life.  

Part of “living in the present moment” is knowing the laundry will get soiled again. We live in a fallen world and while we strive to be a light of Christ, somedays the smoke will get in the way. We just learned how to deal with it. Push the smoke away with faith. Taking each new emotion or old baggage to Christ is not a failure. It is our renewed strength in faith. As long as we keep focus on engaging Christ on our path, we will reach our destination: eternity with Him.

Be free to let go. In Jesus, we can leave the baggage behind and fully embrace the present moment.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster