I don’t know about you, but recently it’s felt like every day is as long as a week and every week is as long as a year. I can hardly remember what happened yesterday or plan for what will happen tomorrow. This has forced me focus exclusively on the present moment. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
The wisdom of the saints is to the live in the present moment. The present moment, not the past or the future, is where God is to be found and encountered. Or, rather, it is where God finds and encounters us. The classic summary of this wisdom is to be found in Brother Lawrence’s Book The Practice of the Presence of God. But a beautiful summary of the same wisdom can be found on the first page of the Diary of St. Faustina. In the second paragraph of her diary, St. Faustina writes:
O My God,
When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all.
It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence.
And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater glory.
Although the saints live in the present moment, they do not live for the present moment. This is a subtle but important distinction. Both the wicked and righteous person may live in the present moment, but the wicked person lives for the present moment while the righteous person, the saint, lives for eternal life.
The wicked person lives for the present moment. They try to acquire as much pleasure, power, honor and wealth from that moment, caring not about the eternal consequences of their actions. But this living in the present moment for the present moment is kind of blindness:
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
For God formed us to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made us.Wisdom 2:21-23
Living for the present moment blinds us to the hidden counsels of God. It makes us forgetful of God’s commands which he gave us so that might have eternal life. It also blinds us to the reward, the recompense, that comes from holiness, from having an innocent soul: eternal life.
That is why the saints, even if they live in the present moment, do not live for the present moment. They live for eternal life. For we were not made just for this life. “God formed us to be imperishable.”