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God in the Now

Offer Christ today. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. The day at hand alone is real. We get caught up and choked up with anxiety for tomorrow, or regret about yesterday. It weighs on us like a colossal gravity, but all this is a delusion, an escape from reality. God asks from us only what we can offer him in the current moment, and he is present with us in that moment, if we are still enough to attend.

“The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (Matthew 13:31-35).

The mustard seed is remarkably tiny. Imagine holding one in your palm. One little grain, if you did not know what it was, you would blow it off and forget it. Poof. It is gone, meaningless, negligible, not worth a single thought. This is how we feel, much of the time, about a single moment, or a single day.

When we think of all the accomplishments of the saints, we can feel rather hopeless. St. Anthony fasted and meditated for years on end. St. Basil founded hospitals and homes for the elderly. St. Brigid fed the poor and inspired institutions of charity. Maybe we have known Christians who seem to have their act together. They are fervent and accomplished. What do we compare? We can picture all kinds of scenarios where, if we were there, somewhere else or another time, then we could do something important. Then your mind wanders back to reality and you take a look at your common life. It can all feel insignificant.

This is the delusion. What God asks from us is nothing else than what we have, here and now. He desires our today.

Elijah walked along through a small town and met a widow picking up sticks. He called out to her, and asked for some water and bread. She hung her head down and apologized. “I have no bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil.” “Go home and make a small loaf for me from that flour,” he said. She could have laughed at him, or gone away bitter. She was starving after all, but she took what little she had to offer. It was one small sacrifice, one little nothing (in our eyes), but what did it accomplish? Heaven’s floodgate opened up. Grace flowed into her life and her home was never afterwards without food. All this happened in one passing moment, in one single day.

The thief was bleeding on the cross. He was suffering horribly. No doubt, he was grieving over the life he had lived, all the failures, all the shame, and now a disgraced criminal. We do not even know his name. Imagine the temptation to give it all up at that moment. But he lifted his eyes. He looked up at Christ beside him with compassion. He reached out with his heart and worshipped, and now spends eternity in paradise — all because of one moment, one decision, one day.

Christ gives us another parable along with the mustard seed.

“The kingdom of heaven,” he says, “is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

Three measures of flour is a lot of flour. It is easy to miss this in the English translation. Three measures, or tria kata (in Greek), comes out to over 40 pounds of flour. That is enough to feed a hundred people. No normal house wife sits down to kneed 40 pounds of flour. Christ uses this excessive illustration to make a point. Leaven is a marvelous thing. Just a pinch of leaven changes the entire substance of the dough. A small dose of heavenly leaven is enough to transform a dysfunctional soul. A passing moment on our knees, a short and mindful prayer, a decision to offer up your current day has eternal repercussions.

We live in a disturbing world.

Our culture seems to be falling apart everywhere you look. Whether its the economy, political campaigns, laws,  or grocery stores, only a fool today would think any of it is stable. For most of history, people did not have instant news about the atrocities on the other side of the planet. Today, every death and tyranny is pummeled into our ears and its impossible to ignore it. Add to that, our own affairs right here are overwhelming. The American lifestyle keeps us marching to the beat of frenzied drums, at a faster pace than most humans have ever experienced. Just to keep up with it all, between paying bills, hospital visits, shopping, and driving (and all our favorite television shows), we are spinning around in unrelenting circles. It is crushing. How can we possibly take Christ’s words seriously:

“Do not worry about your life . . . look at the birds of the air . . . see how the flowers in the field grow . . .  Seek first his kingdom . . . do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:25-34).

The message of peace and rest in the Gospel can feel like a fairytale. The height of holiness to which Christ calls us too seems like an impossible illusion.

Yet Christ’s words still hold true. The Christian path is the same in the 21st century and with all our chaos.

Listen to the words in the 37th Psalm:

“Fret not thyself . . . Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing good; dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thou in the Lord, and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire.”

This psalm is talking to you and me. It is addressed to a man or woman suffering right in the middle of evil and chaos, like a sailor drowning at sea.

“Hold thee still in the Lord, and abide patiently upon him . . . Leave off from wrath and let go displeasure.”

As the psalm continues, weaving in and out about greed, hate, and violence, it then offers hope, not to the perfect person, but to the dysfunctional sinner, trying to honor God, but struggling.

“The Lord ordereth a good man’s going, and maketh his way acceptable to himself. Though he fall, he shall not be cast away, for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”

All God asks from us is the current day. So what can we offer Him? Is it tiny, like a mustard seed? It is enough. Is it a huge mess, an unrelenting cycle of dysfunction, or simply the choking anxiety of tomorrow — like 40 pounds of dough — it just takes a dose of heavenly leaven. Hidden, working silently, God is with us healing and transforming. One day at a time. One breath at a time. We encounter God in the now.

"God is everywhere. There is no place God is not...You cry out to Him, 'Where art Thou, my God?' And He answers, "I am present, my child! I am always beside you.' Both inside and outside, above and below, wherever you turn, everything shouts, 'God!' In Him we live and move. We breathe God, we eat God, we clothe ourselves with God. Everything praises and blesses God. All of creation shouts His praise. Everything animate and inanimate speaks wondrously and glorifies the Creator. Let every breath praise the Lord!” (St. Joseph the Hesychast).


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