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Discerning the Laity: the Moment

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May. 01, 2012
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One of the hardest times to live in is the moment.  Think of how often we are scurrying about, oblivious to the present in order to secure an idealized future.  This tendency is precisely what spawned the expression, “Remember to stop and smell the roses.”  Too, think of how often we catch ourselves hung up on the past, sacrificing the present in order to drudge up or hold on to something left buried in times-gone-by.  The moment, however, is seldom seen as an ordinary opportunity to live in—it is merely a means to an end, a catapult-like time machine that either transports us backward or forward. 

One of the most stunning pieces of advice I was ever given came from a wonderful nun who admonished me to live more fully in the present moment.  She encouraged me to let God be God and to trust that He would deliver what was to come while I let sleeping dogs lie.  When she gave me this bit of advice, this holy woman reminded me of a startling Thomistic truth that we all mustn’t forget: grace builds off of nature.

God can act in the world, but as our sacramental faith clearly shows, those actions are most often mediated by natural things.  Before we can be divine, we must be human; before we can enjoy the supernatural, we must dare to be natural.  Grace cannot act but in reality, in the world.  Yet how often do we pray that God will act to remove the shame of a past event or secure a future vision?  How often do we ask God to act in reaches of time that are well-beyond our capacity to step?  We want the grace, but we want it to build off of something other than nature!  Nature exists most naturally in the moment, in the present, right now.  Grace can only properly act in this present era, in this era of our lives. 

Consider our own tendency to put off the ways of sanctity until such-and-such a time when we dare commit ourselves to the path of holiness.  Think about how often we have asked Jesus to step aside, turn a blind eye to our present activities, fully assuring Him that tomorrow will be different.  The Laity have a serious dilemma to face—the dilemma of trust.  The moment is so difficult to live in precisely because it demands the most trust in order to do that.  Yet, at the same time, the mechanics of Grace deem the moment as the most important and relevant time for sanctification.

We will never get around to living our vocational call to holiness if we do not commit ourselves to living it now.  Tomorrow is no good, because, quite frankly, tomorrow is the most uncertain time of all—remember, as St. Paul writes, this world is passing away.  And while the future is the least certain time of all, the past usually becomes the most unhealthy of all times to dwell in—we have become skilled at remembering only the bad, only the hurt, only the pain.  Where Grace has the opportunity to attach itself in these ethereal non-existent, forecast/hindsight spectrums of the timeline is a good question…a question that most of us wish not to answer, but only to continue to rely on.  The truth is, however, that we can’t rely on Grace to operate in ways contrary to how God has ordained—else I am not sure that we could properly call it ‘grace.’ 

Grace builds on nature.  You, me, the world in the present, at the moment, now is the time.  Now is the opportunity for you to be filled.  Not tomorrow, not yesterday.  Give up on trying to jockey God’s favors into irrelevant epochs of your life.  This is your chance to be a saint.  Are you willing to let God take the most effective strides in the most powerful time of your life?  Or will be simply continue to pray as if the moment mattered little?  The function of Grace is not to unfold before you a life you are willing to walk through—it is meant to fortify you as you walk through life.  Its functionality is dependent upon is being used now.  If sanctity is a mere prospect, then it should come as no surprise that the world is Fallen and will remain ever-deflated.  The uplifting pentecostal breath of God’s dispensing graces are meant to set you sailing right now…we cannot imagine that we can bottle the wind for a later date.  The resolution to being a future saint may seem laudable until we understand that the hesitancy is our own complacency as sinners.  Got grace?  What are you waiting for?!