29th Sunday B – The Here-and-Now
In my youth, when I was about eighteen, I had an awakening of faith. Or maybe it was hormones. I remember having a head of steam about creation and all God’s creatures – cattle, horses, birds, rabbits, the harvest, the flowers of the forest, people – and eventually I felt a gravitational pull toward “something.” In due course I sensed I was being drawn toward priesthood. I happened to know a couple of guys who were studying at the time to be priests and whose ardour and good humour were not lost on me. I’m not sure I was as brash as James and John in this Sunday’s Gospel; I wasn’t angling to be a bishop. I just wanted to be a priest and say Mass with the people. I prayed, but mostly for things I wanted for myself. I hadn’t yet a mentor to guide me spiritually. That came later. I knew there would be years of study and disciplined living involved, but for me the goal of being a priest outweighed the cost.
Grant us to sit, one at your right and one at your left, in your glory. Maybe James and John had been discussing among themselves whether leaving the family fishing business to follow Jesus was really worth it. Their question suggested they had lost the playbook for following Jesus. Did Mark include the episode as a cautionary tale for his readers and listeners? I have met young clerics whose ambitions seemed to lie beyond simple priesthood. Scripture can challenge our ways of thinking and living and looking at life. The Gospel stories call us to grapple with life and with the world in the light of Christ’s death and resurrection. Attention to the scriptures, to the written word of God, is a preparation for hearing God’s word speaking in the people and world around us. God speaks anew in every generation. The Second Vatican Council challenged believers to attend to God speaking through the “signs of the times”.
One of the signs of our times is the growing practice of mindfulness in many people’s lives. Meditation, mindfulness, a contemplative centering on the here and now, the present moment – has become a kind of growth industry in non-religious people as it is in religious people. God is the root reality of our lives. Today, we cannot afford to live mindlessly: over indulging, over medicating, over phoning, satiating our endless desires and expecting the world to serve our wants and whims. The unexamined life is not the road to transformation. To live in the God-moment of life is to realize that all we need and desire – happiness, contentment, peace, joy, even the beginnings of eternal life – is here-and-now in this moment. To experience it with God’s grace involves that each day we take time to be still and turn our attention to “the sacrament of the present moment” in which time and eternity are entangled.
Listening for the voice of God in everyday life, as in the scriptures, is a bit like finding one’s way through an unfamiliar website. We follow intuitions and hunches as we practise daily openness to the Lord and living in the breath of the Spirit’s vitality. The Spirit of God whose power is at work in us keeps drawing us to transformation. Attentive prayer in sheer quietness helps to bring Christ alive in our hearts – cf. Ephesians 3:16-21. Most of us need to become more aware of his Presence within us. I often catch myself saying the prayers of the Divine Office, for example, while not attending to the divine presence. Sometimes I am mentally aware that God is there, although deep in my soul I can be out of touch with the God Moment of Reality.
Fr. QQ – 10/13/2021