Tuesday — This week we’ll be unpacking and embracing Thich Nhat Hanh’s invitation to be “awake to the present moment.”
Let’s call it the “awake to the present moment coupon”. Even and especially in the times our lives feel unraveled.
In his book “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life,” he wrote, “If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.” (Yes, even in the blundered moments.)
In the movie (one of my very favorites), The Mission, Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro) loses his lover to his brother, and then kills his brother in a pique of rage. His world is on tilt. He is visited in his cell by Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons), who is told “He won’t see anybody. I think he wants to die.”
In the cell Mendoza tells Fr. Gabriel, “You don’t know what I am.”
Fr. Gabriel, “Yes. You are a mercenary. You are a slave trader. And you killed your bother. I know. But you loved him, although you chose a strange way to show it.”
Mendoza, “For me there is no redemption.”
Some of us have felt that way. Like there is no reason to go on.
It is made all the more thorny, if we see our imperfection as an enemy (predicament or obstacle) to be overcome.
For most of my life, I can say that I didn’t trust grace. Or, believe that grace was available to me. Let’s just say, that in the church of my upbringing, grace came with fine print. You had to read the disclosure that you will not benefit, if you do not measure up. Which meant, with my scarcity paradigm, grace was always out of reach.
So, I do understand Mendoza’s response.
I love that Fr. Gabriel isn’t about weighing and measuring. He literally is inviting Mendoza to be awake to the present moment. Yes, a conflicted, difficult, sinful, pain-filled moment. But if that’s all we see, we miss the “coupon” of being awake to the present moment, which is, the “coupon of Grace”… Meaning the sufficiency of Grace. And forgiveness.
That inside this conflicted, brilliant, complicated, deeply flawed self is a light–capable of love, graciousness, mercy, generosity, humanity, restitution, rebirth–capable of the very reflection and image of God.
I’ll give Henri Nouwen the final word, “The question is not ‘How am I to find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by him?’ The question is not ‘How am I to know God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be known by God?’ And, finally, the question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?’ God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
Wednesday — Awake to the present moment. Yes, that’s what I preach. But what about the days I don’t want to be, or cannot be, there? There are times when the weight or the unraveling take a toll. And… I was so grateful for this post from Parker Palmer. It did my heart good…
“Ever wake up in the middle of the night with one of those Big Questions, the kind that get their kicks from ambushing us when we’re down? A few days ago, I woke up with, ‘Does my life have meaning?’—a hard question to handle at 2:00 AM, when I can’t remember my ZIP Code.
At daybreak, I went back to this brief but powerful poem by Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz. His words help me understand that the question is flawed. The need to know the meaning of MY life comes from an ego that insists I’m something special, set apart from the life around me. But the ego has it wrong: the truth is that I am ‘only one thing among many.’
When I’m able to look at my life that way, it ‘heals my heart’ to know that I’m embedded in the vast miracle of life itself. Life is inherently meaningful, and I can share in that meaning when I’m animated by the fact that I participate in that miracle. Once I abandon the ego-fantasy that my tiny atom of life is the one to worry about, I can know the comfort that comes from being welcomed as a “friend” by the great family of being.
How can I know that I’m making best use of the gift of life in the service of life? I can’t, says Milosz. The question ‘How am I doing?’ also comes from our old friend the ego, whose questions are forever flawed! What matters is my intention to hold myself and others ‘in the glow of ripeness’—that is, in the faith that together we can bear good fruit.
Imagine what the world would be like if we were motivated by that faith, by pay-it-forward gratitude for the gift of life itself. Feel like you’re falling short, as I often do? It helps to remember that ‘Who serves best doesn’t always understand.’
(Thank you Parker Palmer.)
Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
Czeslaw Milosz (New & Collected Poems 1931-2001)
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
A prayer for a new day
Thank you for the gift of today.
Refresh me. Invite me to discover your presence
In each person that I meet
And every event that I encounter.
Teach me when to speak and when to listen
When to ponder and when to share.
In moments of challenge and decision
Attune my heart to the whisperings of your Wisdom.
As I undertake ordinary and unnoticed tasks,
Gift me with simple joy.
When my day goes well, may I rejoice.
When it grows difficult, surprise me with
When life is overwhelming, call me to
To restore your Peace and Harmony.
May my living today reveal your Goodness.
Pat Bergen, C.S.J. via Jesuit Resource