FAUSTO GOMEZ OP.
Some time ago, a well-known Japanese Dominican, Fr. Shigeto Oshida, stayed at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Manila for a few days. He had to give a series of lectures at the University’s Faculty of Theology. We knew each other much earlier and had become good friends. Before leaving UST, Fr. Oshida told me: “Fausto, where are you going? You seem to be always on the move, going somewhere! Enjoy the moment, smell the flowers …” I realized then that I was not giving sufficient importance to this moment because I was always looking to the next thing to do – to the next moment!
A renewed understanding of hope – human as well as Christian – has helped me through the years to become increasingly aware of the unique significance of the moment, of every moment, of this very moment.
When she was very young, St. Therese of the Child Jesus was worried about the future. After she became a Carmelite nun, she focused her life on the present moment: “I just keep concentrating on the present moment. I forget the past, and preserve myself from worries about the future… When one thinks of the past and the future one loses courage and falls into despair… Let us turn our single moment of suffering to profit; let us see each instant as if there were no other. An instant is a treasure.”
The Zen Master says: “The past is unreal; the future is unreal too; only the moment is real. Life is a series of moments, either lived or lost.” Indeed, life is a series of moments either lived or lost! True freedom entails doing “what the present moment demands, what we owe to ourselves and to our neighbors” (Anselm Grun).
As human beings, as believers we are asked to be faithful to the moment, to this moment, which is the only thing in our hands. To be faithful to the moment implies to live the moment in God’s presence. The “now” really matters. God is the eternal now, and is present in every moment. God says to Abraham: “Live in my presence, be perfect” (Gen 17:1). When the Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she was deeply surprised by the visit of the most blessed of all women and said: “The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy” (Lk 1:43-44). On that moment, the two women felt God’s presence.
The moment for believers is the moment in God’s presence: “What essentially matters is the presence of God in every moment of our life once it becomes oriented towards God, just as a sunflower rotates in the direction of the sun throughout the day” (Y. Congar). The holy man and mystic Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection says that “Every moment permeated by God’s presence is a moment of grace and mercy.” Indeed, the path of life to happiness is “to live only for God and the duties of the present moment” (Jean-Pierre de Caussade).
Life is a series of moments that form a chain that leads forward. Every moment matters. Some moments possess a special significance, such as, the moment of birth, the moment of commitment – to marriage, to a religious life, to a priestly ordination, to a profession – and the last moment.
There is an essential use of the word moment when referring to life’s beginning and its end. The joy for a new life! Christians believe in the sacredness of human life and are guided by an ethical principle grounded on Sacred Scriptures and in Tradition: “Human life must be defended from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.” Each human being – born or unborn – has a right to life. Our life is sacred: God created us; God governs us; God adopted us in Jesus as his children, and destined us to eternal life with him. Our life, therefore, is sacred and ought to be defended and promoted from its first moment (against abortion) to its last (against suicide, homicide, euthanasia and the death penalty), and in the series of moments in-between its first and last moments (against violence, injustice, forced poverty, hypocrisy).
In his book of essays Faith and Spiritual Life, Yves Congar meditates on the intercessory prayer “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” and in particular on the words: “now and at the hour of our death.” What really matters, he explains, is “the vertical relationship of every moment of our life with God our End that makes these moments holy and acceptable to him.” He continues: “This immediate relationship with God which occurs in every day and every moment – and finally in the last moment – of our lives, is incorporated like grace and holiness in Christ.” To pray daily, to pray every moment means for believers to be aware of the continuing presence of God and of their own vulnerability and sinfulness.
For Christ, the last moment is “the hour,” the moment of victory, of his triumphant death on the Cross – the Cross of Hope that points to his Resurrection (cf. Mk 14:35; Jn 2:4, 7:30, 12:27, 17:1, etc.). For us Christians, then “the hour” is the last moment of our earthly life, which as Yves Congar affirms, “is essentially relative to another life, the true everlasting life”: the last moment ushers in death, that is, another life – eternal life. In Christian tradition, death is in friendly relationship with life. Death is the end of life, but “not in the sense of its conclusion but of its fulfillment; death is the fusion of two lives.” He advises us: We should not be scared of death; what matters is that this moment is “lived in God’s presence,” as a moment of love and of union with the death of Christ. St. John of the Cross encourages us: “Because before you die you will be sorry for not employing this time in God’s service, why don’t you use it well as you would have liked to when you were dying?”
The quality of our moment is measured by our love. To be faithful to the moment signifies to do what we ought to do with love; to carry out our daily duties and obligations with love (Segundo Galilea). “God does not look at the grandeur of the work we do, but at the love we put into it” (St. Teresa of Avila).
What matters most in life is love: “To be is to love” (E. Mounier). In this life, love is “always ready to hope” (I Cor 13:7), because we are pilgrims to the house of our Father. True hope, however, is not “a pie in the sky” but fidelity to the present, to today, to ‘now’, to this moment, which is the only thing we actually possess. With the passing of time “one realizes that the best was not the future, but the moment you were living precisely at that instant!” ((José Luis Borges).
For a pilgrim to eternal life, to be faithful to the moment implies putting love in everything we do. In everything! Big or small, public or secret; in prayer, in work, in walking, in a smile, in a failure – in suffering.
With love in the heart, we pilgrims journey forward joyful in hope with steps of love (Rom 12:12), “striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:11), “racing towards the finishing-point” (Phil 3:14). A Christian with many other brothers and sisters journeys forward by putting love in every moment, by making of every moment a step of love towards the embrace of Jesus the Lord.
Does every moment of our life matter? Yes, it does. It matters much. “Life is a series of moments either lived or lost.”
(Published in O Clarim, Macau Catholic Weekly, July 1, 2016 – www.oclarim/com.mo )