“One of the essential conditions of interior freedom is living in the present moment”.Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom (pg. 81)
God is in the present. Sure He was present in the yesterdays, and will be present again in the tomorrows, but He is also very much Alive and Present in the today. To not embrace Him today because we’re dwelling in the past, or wishing or dreading tomorrow, is to dismiss the God who is present in the present moment, and the invitation He continues to extend to us to be united with Him.
Focusing on each ‘today’
“The ladder of Perfection has only one step: the step we take today”.Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom
St Paul and the great saints describe the need to focus on today, and only today matters to love God.
The notion of ‘waiting to live’
We can sometimes have a tendency towards being dissatisfied with the present and thinking something like ‘tomorrow I will begin to live life to the full, because today… (insert the excuse)’. With that, we miss the present. We miss the graces present in the today, in this very moment. God only asks us to live and love moment by moment.
Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. We have the tendency to make our sufferings worse than they need to be by compounding them with dwelling on regrets of the past and the worries of the future. Yesterday’s failures or poor choices hold us bound when we continually allow them to define us or to drag us down. Certainly we ought to learn from past mistakes, but that pre-supposes that we actually learn from them and leave them in the hands of God, instead of allowing them to entomb us in a casket of regret. Similarly with the future. While we’re obliged to take thought of the future and to prepare for tomorrow, we ought not do it with worry or anxiety. Beyond performing the prudential duty of charitable and adequate preparation, there is nothing more than can be done to prepare for the future other than leaving it in the hands of God. So many times we can worry about this or that which is out of our hands in the future. But why? What good does worry do us? This is why Jesus says to – let tomorrow take care of itself. In other words, leave it in the hand of God – where it belongs, because God loves us. And He will work all things for our good. Projecting our fears into the future cuts us off from reality. We never see a problem as it actually is from the perspective of anxiety of that which has yet to pass. God is the God of reality – not that which might be. If we allow Him to be the God of our present by surrendering our worries of the future and the past, He will not let us down.
“A heart preoccupied with worry and concern isn’t available to other people”.Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom (pg. 91)
Isn’t this the truth! When we’re so focused on something that may or may not unfold, or about some unpleasant thing that may happen, we have ceased to appreciate the present moment and have opted not to be present. When that is the case, we cannot adequately meet someone else where they are at because they are to be found in our present moment. The same moment we’ve opted not to be present in. We are unable to give to another because we’re not able to actually meet them the way they deserve. We can see this happen in our day to day, especially when we haven’t carved out enough time in the morning and evening to pray. When we don’t start the day off in prayer, we may find ourselves struggling to pay attention to the person in front of us in the present moment because we’re caught up in being ‘behind’. The same applies to when we may journal and haven’t spent enough time journaling at the end of the previous day. You haven’t taken the time to process the day and are left trying to do that throughout the day, whilst also living the day that you’re in. We can’t do both, and so the present suffers.
The joyful outpourings of the Holy Spirit enrich us and awaken a response of faith. For example, Peter meeting Jesus. Sometimes the Holy Spirit impoverishes us by making us keenly aware of our weakness, and this sorrowful outpouring helps us remember how powerless we are and how much we both need and can trust God. Peter’s denial, for another example. The holy spirit also gloriously pours into our lives Charity, to courageously love God and live a life for God. For example, Peter from the moment of Pentecost works tirelessly for God, laying down his life.
“When fire approaches the log it first lights it up and warms it. That corresponds to a joyful mystery. We are warmed by the love of God revealed to us. When the fire comes closer, the wood begins to blacken, smoke, smell bad, and give out tar and other unpleasant substances. This is the sorrowful outpouring: the soul has the painful experience of its own wretchedness. This phase lasts until the purifying fire has completed its work and the soul is totally transferred into a fire of love. Here is the glorious outpouring, in which the soul is strengthened in charity, the fire Jesus came to kindle on earth”.Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom (pg. 102)
We have no need to fear the wretchedness, instead we can abandon ourselves to trusting God.
The need to trust in God
“Faith produces hope, and hope makes love possible and helps it grow. Doubt invites distrust, which leads us to sin. This is seen clearly in the fall”.Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom (pg. 108)
When we have a lack of faith, we begin to doubt God’s faithfulness to us, and whether He is even real. When we do that, we distrust Him being able to come through for us, which then leads us to abandoning Him and His Will in our lives. Bearing this in mind, the beatitude of Blessed are the pure of heart, makes a lot more sense.
In the OT, the pure of heart are those who put their hope in God and God alone. The pure of heart can see God acting in the here and now as hope allows for charity to grow, for love to grow, for God to be seen more and more as we become more freely able to welcome Him into our hearts.
TBG (Truth, Beauty, Goodness)
· SB: Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth series – beautiful account of Jesus life and the meaning of His redemptive action in history.
· SC: Recently listened to a podcast from Restore the Glory with Chris and Natalie Stefanik. Oh my goodness, talk about beautiful! They share some of the wounds that come up through their marriage, and the healing they have been able to find by the love of God working in and through each other within their marriage. Stunning! It’s heavy, and adult content, but worth listening to. So is the whole Podcast really with Bob Schutz and Jake Khym who are both trained psychotherapists.
- Which types of moments do I tend to dwell on from the past? The future?
- What stands in the way of being fully present in any given moment?
- ‘The ladder of Perfection has only one step: the step we take today’ – Jacque Philippe – What does this mean to you? What does the ladder of perfection look like in your mind? And what is that step you’re being asked to take, today?
- What can you use to recall the imagery from St John so as to bring to mind the need not to worry during the times when our own brokenness, fragility and weakness are brought to light? And instead place our trust in God?
- ‘Faith produces hope, and hope makes love possible and helps it grow’ – where can you see this having already worked in your life?
- Doubt invites distrust, which leads us to sin.’
- Identify a recurring sin and work backwards to identify what kind of distrust and doubt this sin has sowed in your life and relationship with God.
- Name a doubt that you have in relation to God, determine the kind of distrust that may cause and the sin it may then lead to if you’re not cautious.